OPINION: The honours lists offer a twice-yearly opportunity for New Zealand to say thanks to those who have moved, shaped and sometimes even shaken their community or country. Invariably, they also give cause for those who enjoy nothing more than attacking tall poppies to get out the secateurs.
Top target this year will be controversial broadcaster Paul Holmes, although his personal circumstances might help soften the inevitable criticism - along the lines of "he was only doing his job, and very well paid for it, too". In sudden retirement this year after what he is terming the aggressive return of prostate cancer, Sir Paul appears to have been a late addition to the list and was phoned with the news on Christmas Day by Prime Minister John Key.
There is the sense that the award has come at this time in order not to leave it until the next gongs are distributed at Queen's Birthday in June. Like the Holmes interviewing style or not, he has been an influential figure in New Zealand broadcasting and active in a number of causes, in particular the fight against methamphetamine.
Auckland philanthropist Owen Glenn's and equestrian Mark Todd's knighthoods are other talking points. Other than being a skilled horse rider with five Olympic medals including two golds spanning a 28-year career, Todd became a tabloid newspaper target at the start of the millennium with allegations that he was dabbling in cocaine and casual relationships with men. Glenn, meanwhile, earned his fortune offshore but seems happy to spend a fair chunk of it on good causes now that he is back in New Zealand. His main interest is in a push to reduce child abuse and family violence - on which he has committed to spending $80 million. Critics of those who abhor honours being awarded to rich business leaders may find it difficult to be churlish in the face of such generosity, especially towards this cause.
Retired politicians always figure on a list drawn up by current ones, and this year Rodney Hide and Wayne Mapp both receive QSMs. Enough said.
Three Nelson people feature, all interesting and worthy recipients in their own ways. Best known is a former Nelsonian of the Year, John O'Donovan, who appeals as something of a throwback to an older style of policing and all the more effective for this. His work in the Victory area as a community constable earned him deserved national attention, and he continues to work on a range of "making-a-difference", community health initiatives, including internet safety, drug education and road safety.
Hugh Gully is among a number of Nelsonians with a special interest in the Nepal region, but the St Arnaud man's focus goes beyond the norm and he spends 10 weeks a year there on volunteer duties. The other local recipient, businessman, entrepreneur and educator David Teece, also receives recognition for his efforts in international relations: in his case, with the United States.
We join the Nelson community in congratulating these three and others on the list. Of course, there are many others for whom a case could be made, and there is luck, politics and a fair measure of "it's who you know" in making it. Those with dashed expectations should not despair - the Queen's Birthday list is probably already being drawn up.
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