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Honour recognises Don's efforts

GEORGE GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014
Red Cross
ACTIVE LIFE: Don McKenzie, CNZM, OBE and his wife Rosemary are regulars at the Wharf 2 Wharf event. They won’t be taking part this Saturday but wish everyone good luck. Don was recognised for his services to physiotherapy and the blind in the New Year honours list.

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Don McKenzie CNZM, OBE is taking his latest honour in his stride.

The upbeat 73-year-old Rocky Bay resident has been recognised for his services to physiotherapy and the blind in the New Year honours list.

He has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit 33 years after receiving his OBE in 1981.

Back then the New Zealand Foundation for the Blind was going through a bit of a rough patch, Don says.

"It was rooted in institutionalisation and hierarchical, top-down administration."

Don's work was recognised for uniting the foundation's users and providers.

"I was able to pull the parties together so we could work collaboratively.

"It involved bringing blind people into the mainstream population and this also flowed into the general disability arena."

Don led the charge on de-institutionalisation and the promotion of self-determination by blind and disabled people.

On top of that, he and his colleagues rescued the old heritage brick building at 545 Parnell Rd - established as the Blind Institute in 1891 - from demolition.

Now the former Waiheke Local Board member is humbled to be back in the limelight.

"I couldn't have done half the things I've been able to achieve without my wife Rosemary and certainly all the teams I've worked with over the years who have been dedicated to the same causes as me."

He is also pleased the honour recognises a profession that involves rehabilitating people. "I've had a great career in physiotherapy and have had the privilege of meeting some very gifted people and some wonderful patients who, despite being handed one of life's dirty deals, have come up trumps and battled on. That's always such a moving thing."

Don and Rosemary, who is also legally blind, enjoy their exercise and are regulars in the annual Wharf 2 Wharf.

But they won't be doing the 7km walk from Kennedy Point this Saturday.

"We are going off to our daughter's in Wellington to look after two new kittens, two dogs and two teenagers.

"I was particularly disappointed not to be taking part this year as I would have been rattling the box for the Fred Hollows Foundation which does so much for the prevention of blindness in the Pacific."

But Don has a cheery message for everyone taking part.

"Good luck, take it easy and enjoy the journey. It's about participating, not necessarily winning."

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