A man of the land and the boardroom table who "knows every inch of the nor-west" has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
David Steele of Waimauku receives the Queen’s Birthday honours list accolade for his services to local government and the community.
A practical man, he left school to milk cows on his father’s farm and then became the biggest hay baling contractor in the area.
Influential for many decades in both education and local body politics, he says he never expected to be recognised.
He has always been popular with voters.
Mr Steele was active in the education sector for 28 years until 1999.
Despite being chairman of the Woodhill School committee and being on the Kaipara College Parent Teacher Association, he saw himself as a rank outsider to be elected to the Auckland Education Board.
But he says he received more votes than the other three candidates put together and remained on the board for seven years.
His contribution to school committees was recognised when he was made a life member of the Auckland School Committee Association.
In 1974 Mr Steele followed his father on to the local council, when he was elected to the Kumeu ward.
When his father stood aside to give a "younger guy" a go, Mr Steele junior got in, remaining for 33 years.
Mr Steele was Rodney’s first deputy mayor when Sir Gordon Mason was head of the district, and later returned to the role alongside mayor John Law.
"Over time within the council there were two things I was very interested in, getting reserves for the young people of the area and getting the roads tarsealed," Mr Steele says.
He was instrumental in expanding and developing Huapai Reserve into a multi-sport ground.
"We worked hard on that, and it is just a picture now."
He also helped secure reserves in Taupaki, Coatesville and Riverhead, as well as the Muriwai tennis courts and village green.
Mr Steele also represented the council on the Regional Civil Defence Emergency Management Group and the Kaipara Harbour Authority.
He says the key to being a good representative on the council is "caring about everybody" and keeping the big picture in mind.
Mr Steele finished his stint on the council in a similar way to which he started – standing aside for daughter-in-law Brenda to seek election in 2007.
He says you don’t spend 33 years on the council for recognition – "you’ve got to have people’s support, that’s what makes the difference".
He also attributes his success to the support of his wife Joy and their three children.
"I couldn’t have done it without her," he says.
Stepping out of public life has not slowed him down either, he is an active member of Federated Farmers and is chairman of the Awhero Trust, which provides financial help to west Auckland families in need.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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