Lack of honours 'down to modesty'

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 03/06/2014

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A rural heritage of just getting on with the job may be behind Taranaki's poor showing in the Queen's biannual honours lists.

New Plymouth men Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru and Dr Anthony Ruakere were the only two Taranaki residents to receive an honour in the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours list.

When combined with the single 2014 New Year honour received by Peter McDonald of Stratford, Taranaki's total honours for the year are just three.

With 2.4 per cent of the population and approximately 350 honours handed out annually, on a per capita basis Taranaki could expect to receive about eight honours a year. But that is not the case.

In 2013 just five Taranaki people received honours. In 2012 it got up to seven, the year before that there were four and in 2010 it was seven again, giving Taranaki an average of five awards a year for the past five years.

The head of Volunteering New Plymouth and the city's deputy mayor, Heather Dodunski, was not concerned about the "under performance" and said such honours should never be given out on a population basis anyway.

"It should be the people who have done enough and really are recognised and appreciated by their community," she said.

That being said, Dodunski acknowledged that Taranaki people were under-represented in the honours lists, which are dominated by people from Auckland and Wellington, the country's two most populous cities.

"Perhaps in the bigger cities you are used to having to push and shove and be out there to be noticed," she said. "Whereas here you just get on and do what you do."

New Plymouth Pakeke Lions Club president John Whibley was not surprised Taranaki under-performed in royal honours.

"It's because of our rural roots," he said. "Things that needed doing you did because you had to. It's who we are. We just get on with it. The reward is getting the job done."

Like Dodunski, he believed there were many people sitting just beneath the radar who deserved to be acknowledged for their contribution to society. The poor honours showing was not a reflection of a heartless community, he said.

"There has to be very deserving people out there, doing things in the community. Doing things that deserve a mention. We call rugby the national game but our national sport is known as the tall poppy. No-one wants to stick their head above the parapet in case it gets knocked down."

South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop said the paucity of honours was surprising because, according to statistics, South Taranaki had twice the engagement of people involved in voluntary work than the national average.

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"Taranaki people are modest and often believe that somebody else has achieved more. We also have fewer public servants and armed service personnel living in our communities who receive a good portion of the recognition," he said. "Obviously there are some opportunities for us to put more effort into nominating more good people."

Nominations for an honour can be made by anyone. They are considered twice a year and a shortlist of nominees is submitted to the Queen. Nominators remain anonymous. Nominees who make the shortlist are asked if they would accept before the Queen formally approves the honour.

- Taranaki Daily News

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