New Year Honours: Penal law reformer Peter Williams QC among eight Knights, two Dames

Business, sport and politics feature strongly among the 10 men and women honoured with new knight- or damehoods

Businessmen Paul Collins, Neville Jordan and Don Rowlands, criminal lawyer and penal law reformer Peter Williams QC and Justice Graham Panckhurst are among eight new Knights Companion (KNZM) in the New Year Honours 2015.

Others are architect Ian Athfield and Catholic educationalist Br Pat Lynch.

The top honour, Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (GNZM), has gone to long-time US resident, cancer surgeon and medical researcher professor Murray Brennan, of New York.

The honour is restricted to just 30 living people at one time.

Otago University-educated Sir Murray Brennan is recognised as a world-leading cancer specialist, who has combined his background in mathematics to create medical databases. He has has been instrumental in raising funds for medical research for New Zealanders here and in the US.

Two Dames Companion (DNZM) have been created: arts patron Adrienne, Lady Stewart, of Christchurch, and former Maori Party co-leader and cabinet minister Tariana Turia.

Dame Adrienne Stewart is the widow of Christchurch businessman Sir Robertson Stewart, who died in August 2007, and is honoured for her roles in promoting women in business as well as for charitable and cultural organisations here and overseas.

Her first honour was in 1995, when she received a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM), to which was added an ONZM in 2006 and an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Canterbury (2011).

Dame Tariana Turia retired from politics this year after being elected in 1996 on the Labour list and in 2002 as an electorate MP. In 2004 she resigned from Labour and was elected  as a Maori Party MP and co-leader in 2004.

Auckland QC Sir Peter Williams is one of the country’s best-known criminal lawyers and has just published the latest autobiographical book, The Dwarf Who Moved (excerpted in two parts here and here.)

Sir Peter has appeared in more than 100 murder trials in a 60-year career, including the Arthur Allan Thomas case and the Basset Rd machine gun killings. He also represented drug syndicate leader Terry (“Mr Asia”) and has long campaigned for penal reform.

Innovator and technology entrepreneur Sir Neville Jordan has been winning top business awards for years, most recently as Wellingtonian of the Year in 2012. He was president of the Royal Society from 2006-09, a rare position for a businessman, and has been a member of many government scientific organisations.

He became a member of the NBR RICH LIST after listing his company MAS Technology on the US Nasdaq exchange in 1975 and continues to be an active venture capitalist through Endeavour Capital.

Sir Paul Collins will best be remembered by many in business as chief executive of Brierley Investments during its heyday in 1980s. Also on the NBR RICH LIST, he has since focused on his private interests with Active Equities and in sports administration.

He was chairman of the NZ Sports Foundation from 1992-99 and has chaired Sport New Zealand since 2009. He has been a director of the Hurricanes rugby franchise since its inception was on the board of Rugby New Zealand when it staged the World Cup in 2011.

Wellington architect Sir Ian Athfield has left his mark in many places with distinctive buildings, not least in the capital and, more recently, as Architectural Ambassador for the Christchurch City Council in the rebuild.

In Wellington, his projects include Civic Square, Adam Art Gallery, Wellington Library, Chews Lane Precinct and the Wellington Overseas Passenger Terminal redevelopment. He was president of the NZ Institute of Architects from 2006-09 and has won more than 60 national and international architecture and design awards.

Sir Graham Panckhurst QC was a High Court judge in Christchurch from 1996 until his retirement in Novermber 2014. He gainened silk as a QC in 1992 and appeared as counsel in major business trials and such as the Fortex fraud and the Wine Box Commission of Inquiry.

He oversaw the lengthy pre-trial arguments and eventual trial of David Bain in Christchurch and was appointed chairman of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Pike River mine disaster from November 2010 to October 2012

Sir Donald (Don) Rowlands business career spanned 48 years with Fisher & Paykel Industries, where he rose to managing director and chief executive, as well as being a director of Hamilton Jet, Mainfreight (also chairman) and top positions in manufacturing organisations.

He is also noted for his association with rowing, in which he was a gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games in the 1950s, was president of the New Zealand Amateur Rowing Association and a member of the New Zealand Sports Foundation.