Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021: The South Island’s great and the good recognised

South Islanders have been well-represented in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list. The Herald has highlighted some of those recognised.

To be a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

Grahame Charles Sydney – for services to art

“Mr Grahame Sydney’s art career spans five decades across mediums including oil painting, watercolour, egg tempera, lithographs, etching, and photography,” his citation says.

“Mr Sydney is best known for his landscapes of Central Otago, which for many have defined their responses to Central Otago and the South.

“His works are represented in the collections of all New Zealand’s major galleries and in private collections both nationally and internationally. His exhibits have attracted record crowds.

“His 1999 ‘Regions of the Heart: 25-year retrospective’ toured New Zealand’s public galleries for two years, setting record public attendances. Tens of thousands attended the ‘Down South – Recent Paintings’ exhibit at Porirua’s Pataka Art and Museum Gallery in 2011. His photographs comprise two books, ‘White Silence’ and ‘Grahame Sydney’s Central Otago’.

“His works are the subjects of several books including ‘Grahame Sydney Paintings 1974-2014’ and his own publications have included ‘Promised Land: From Dunedin to the Dunstan Goldfields’ (2009).

“He was a driving force behind the creation of the Henderson House Artists in Residence Programme in Alexandra and he now chairs the Henderson Arts Trust.

“Mr Sydney has advocated on various environmental issues, including the successful ‘Save Central’ campaign, and he was a founding member of the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group.”

To be a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

The late David (Dave) Charles Cull – for services to local government

“Mr Dave Cull was a councillor from 2007 and mayor from 2010 of Dunedin City Council (DCC).

“As mayor until 2019, Mr Cull implemented a plan for restructuring the council-controlled organisations, improved the financial state of the city, and placed openness and transparency at the forefront of democratic process.

“He instigated work in heritage reuse, digital excellence and sustainable urbanism, with Dunedin being recognised for regeneration of communities without demolition. He built strong sister city relationships with Edinburgh and Shanghai and supported a number of United Nations initiatives to build international cultural links and support sustainable development.

“He supported Dunedin’s bid to become a Unesco City of Literature and was an active supporter and contributor to the UN’s Creative Cities Network. He was elected president of Local Government New Zealand from 2017 to 2019.

“During this time he introduced training and grading schemes that achieved the benchmark and framework that was perceived as previously lacking. He has been vice chair of Commonwealth Local Government Forum and co-president of United Cities and Local Governments Asia Pacific.

“Mr Cull has chaired the Southern District Health Board since 2019, overseeing planning for a new Dunedin hospital.”

To be a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

Professor Angus Hikairo Macfarlane – for services to education, psychology and Māori

“Professor Angus Macfarlane has been a leading figure in cultural theory in education and psychology and an eminent researcher in the field of Mātauranga Māori, who has gained international recognition for the transferability of his theories.

“Professor Macfarlane has developed bicultural approaches for teachers and psychologists to create safe and inclusive relationships with Māori students and clients, notably the Educultural Wheel, his most widely referred to framework for professional practice. His education theories have also proven to be effective for Pacific, disabled and gifted learners.

“He developed his first education theory in New Zealand, the Hikairo Rationale (now Hikairo Schema), a bicultural approach to positive behaviour, while head teacher of the Awhina special education school in 1980s and early 1990s.

“He has contributed to national projects, such as Resource Teachers for Learning and Behaviour and Hui Whakatika, a Māori-developed restorative justice programme in schools. His bicultural research model He Ara Whiria has been widely used by Superu (The Families Commission), MSD, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, and is the basis for research for E Tipu e Rea A Better Start National Science Challenge. Professor Macfarlane is Professor of Māori Research and was founding director of Te Rū Rangahau (The Māori Research Laboratory) at University of Canterbury.”

To be a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

John Stewart Ombler – for services to the public service

“Mr John Ombler has had a 43-year career in the public service and was appointed a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order in 2013 for his services to the State.

“Since his retirement in 2013, Mr Ombler has returned to twice lead Public Service agencies in response to significant crises. He reprised his role as Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority from 2014 to 2016, the year CERA was disestablished.

“In 2020 he became all-of-Government controller for the response to Covid-19, chairing the five-member National Response Leadership Team, made up of the director general of health, director of civil defence and emergency management, and the all-of-Government operations and strategy and policy leads.

“In this role, he had responsibility and oversight for coordinating the public service response at a strategic and operational level – from the National Crisis Management Centre, to cross-agency officials’ meetings, to on-the ground delivery.

“Meeting daily during the initial months of the pandemic outbreak, this team had a key role in advising the Prime Minister and Cabinet on the complex breadth of Covid-19 matters, and ensuring public service agencies were ready to turn executive decisions into practice.

“In November 2017, Mr Ombler was appointed to conduct an inquiry under the State Services Commissioner into financial irregularities at the Waikato District Health Board.”

To be a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

Dr Maxwell Gilbert (Max) Shepherd – for services to biotechnology and business

“Dr Max Shepherd is an award-winning biotechnologist and played a leading role in the emergence and success of the New Zealand biotechnology industry.

“Dr Shepherd was appointed Foundation Professor Oral Biology at Otago University from 1981 to 1994. His pioneering research in the biology and molecular genetics of human pathogen Candida albicans put New Zealand at the forefront of this research internationally, with the laboratory he established remaining an international leader.

“He is widely published, specialising in the medical mycology field. From the mid-1990s he was instrumental in the practical application and commercial funding of science in New Zealand, predominantly through the establishment of a variety of start-up enterprises focused on commercialisation of scientific research, such as Zentech, PharmaZen, A2 Milk, Biocell Corporation and Blis Technologies. His commercialisation model is now widely adopted by start-ups in the industry.

“His inventive problem-solving has contributed to products and projects benefitting diverse areas of New Zealand resources, including rabbit virus management in Central Otago and natural botrytis solutions for the wine industry. He was appointed to the government’s Biotechnology Taskforce in 2003 and was a member of the National Research Advisory Council. Dr Shepherd was a founding committee member from 2012 of the Wanaka branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand and was chair from 2015 to 2017.”

To be an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

David Ross Black – for services to health

“Mr Ross Black founded the Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust and was chair from 1998 to 2019. Mr Black spearheaded a $3.5 million fundraising drive for a dedicated rescue helicopter in the Otago area. The trust now has four dedicated rescue helicopters.

“From inception until his retirement in March 2019, the Otago rescue helicopter service had transported more than 9500 patients to hospital, benefitting the Otago and Southland community across farm and workplace, sporting, and vehicle accidents, sea and land rescues, major medical events and transfers from smaller hospitals.

“He was instrumental in obtaining a significant value in donated professional services, supporting the day-to-day operations of the rescue helicopter service, as well as ground-breaking equipment upgrades, such as night-vision goggles and GPS routes that enabled missions in conditions that would not have otherwise been possible. He was trustee and chairman of the Healthcare Otago Charitable Trust from 1999 to 2014, during which time he oversaw the implementation of an investment policy that built the trust’s funds to more than $17 million and distributions to the community of more than $10 million for equipment, training, research and community projects. Mr Black was a director of Canterbury Health Boards from 1996 to 2001 and chairman of Otago DHB from 1998 to 2001.”

To be a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

Francis William Helps and Shireen May Helps – for services to wildlife conservation

“Mr Francis Helps and his wife Shireen have undertaken more than 40 years of conservation work to protect and enhance the biodiversity values of 32 hectares of their property at Pohatu Flea Bay, adjacent to the Pohatu Marine Reserve.

“Mr and Mrs Helps’ work has protected a significant population of kororā (blue penguins) and they have been involved with protection and monitoring of the few remaining hoiho (yellow eyed penguin) on Banks Peninsula. Noting the declining populations of penguins from predation, through many years of trapping, making nest boxes, monitoring and rehabilitation the Helps have since stabilised the penguin colony at Pohatu.

“Pohatu now has 1260 breeding pairs, the single largest little penguin population on mainland Aotearoa. A section of the Banks Walking Track is situated on their property, giving walkers an opportunity to view the penguins on guided tours as part of the Helps’ Pohatu Penguins business. Pohatu Penguins now offers penguin and nature tours, kayaking and accommodation, directly providing revenue to continue their conservation and education work.

“They educate tourists, school children and individuals about penguins, marine life, vegetation and lizards. The Helps have donated Red Beach Forest and Tutakakahikura scenic reserves to the Crown and have five covenants with QEII National Trust and Banks Peninsular Conservation Trust.”

To be a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order:

The Honourable Ruth Suzanne Dyson – for services as a Member of Parliament and to people with disabilities

“The Honourable Ruth Dyson held several ministerial roles with the Fifth and Sixth Labour Governments and was elected as Member of Parliament from 1993 to 2020 for Lyttelton, Banks Peninsula, and most recently Port Hills.

“Ms Dyson has been involved with the disability sector for more than 30 years. She became the first Minister for Disability Issues from 1999 to 2000 and again from 2001 to 2008. She championed reform of the disability support system, a key outcome of the New Zealand Disability Strategy of 2001.

“She led work to promote inclusivity for disabled people in employment and education, and provided leadership through various changes to ACC legislation. She played a key role in driving development of legislation recognising New Zealand Sign Language as an official language of New Zealand, which passed in 2006. She supported the Government’s involvement in negotiations at the United Nations on a new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“She championed the creation of the Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO) to be an advisory committee to government agencies through the Office for Disability Issues.

“Ms Dyson supported her electorate and the greater Christchurch rebuild following the Canterbury earthquakes, and was a major supporter of the Earthquake Disability Leadership Group that ensured the disabled community had a voice in the city’s recovery.”


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