Editorial: Queen's Birthday Honours celebrate our grassroots heroes

Former Ngai Tahi kaiwhakahaere Charlie Crofts becomes an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori.

Former Ngai Tahi kaiwhakahaere Charlie Crofts becomes an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori.

Charlie Crofts meet Julie Hawke - Julie meet Charlie.

Crofts is a former Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere who played a pivotal role between 1993 and 1996 in seeing through the most critical stages of the Deed of Settlement. Hawke runs New Zealand's biggest highland dancing school, based in Christchurch and Ashburton, and has taught hundreds of students during the past 35 years.

At first glance the two may not appear to have much in common. But both feature in today's  Queen's Birthday Honours List - Crofts appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) and Hawke becoming a member of the same order (MNZM).  

The two are among the 177 New Zealanders and honorary overseas recipients to be recognised for their work across a wide range of endeavours. This latest roll has been named the Queen's 90th Birthday Honours in recognition of yet another milestone recently notched up by the Queen.

There are no new members of the Order of New Zealand this time, but two Dame Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit have been appointed - Justice Ellen France and Karen Sewell - along with five Knight Companions -  Rob Fenwick, Michael Friedlander, Christopher Mace, Matiu Te Rei and Justice Ronald Young.

The remaining 170 honours spread through the pages of the list reflect the diversity of our country and how many hard-working, often unsung, heroes are every day making a real difference to our society and communities. These are not people who focus and thrive on the negative side of life, who take enjoyment in knocking people and their efforts; these are positive folk beavering away at the grassroots level, not expecting recompense, hoping to improve the lives of others.

A quick scan through the honours shows the work of prominent South Island Maori has been recognised. As well as Crofts' contributions to Ngai Tahu, Dunedin professor of Maori health, John Broughton, is appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Norm Dewes of Christchurch has been made MNZM for his advocacy work, including setting up Te Runanga o Nga Maata Waka as an urban Maori authority in 1989.

Other locals acknowledged for their toil over many years include long-time educationalist and Cashmere Primary School principal Jacqui Duncan (MNZM); sports broadcaster, administrator, coach and mentor Lesley Murdoch (ONZM); athletics and gymnastics organiser and board member Annette Purvis (ONZM); football player, 1982 All Whites captain, administrator and commentator Steve Sumner (ONZM); and paralympic sport manager and leader Ken Sowden (MNZM).

South Island business leaders have also been recognised - former Silver Fern Farms chief executive Stewart Barnett is made an ONZM for services to agribusiness and Whitestone Cheese founder Bob Berry becomes an MNZM.  

There will always be those who turn down honours, who think the work and helping others is just reward, and there are many more who deserve such recognition but never get it.

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Our news is too often grim and depressing. New Zealand may be tucked away at the bottom of the world, apparently isolated from some of the worst global evils, but we still have our share of crime and tragedy, disaster and horror.

Lists such as today's help reaffirm our faith in human nature.

 - Stuff


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