Queen's Birthday Honours 2018: Bill English, Topp twins knighted

The Coalition government has reached out to individuals beyond the usual catchment of retired politicians and public servants, members of the legal, health and education professions as well as community leaders for recipients of its first Honours List.

The top Queen’s Birthday honours have gone to the singing Topp twins, sex workers’ advocate Catherine Healy and the aged care worker at the centre of last year's landmark equal pay case. 

Among the newly created knights are former prime minister Bill English and entertainer John Rowles.

The honours list is light on contributors to business, science and technology. But the arts and the media have produced 34 of the total 190 recipients. They include All Blacks commentator Grant Nisbett and a big handful of film-makers, musicians and writers.

ABOVE: Watch Todd Scott's Raw and Real interview with Sir Bill.

Among those with a high-ranking honour is former journalist and prime minister’s media adviser Richard Griffin, who was last in the news as chairman of Radio New Zealand (RNZ) in the fuss over Communications Minister Clare Curran’s unofficial meeting with then head of content Carol Hirschfeld.

The bulk of the honours have deservedly gone to those who make a large contribution to their communities, often in a voluntary capacity and who are not widely known outside of their field. 

Those who have achieved in sport and recreation account for 24 honours.

Queenstown’s Barry Thomas, NBR Rich Lister and chairman of Skyline Enterprises, heads those who are recognised in business along with Hamilton's Dallas Fisher and New Zealand Bloodstock's Joe Walls.

Dame Companions of the Order of Merit (DNZM)  
Dame Catherine Healy has been national coordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective since its formation in 1989. She promoted a successful campaign to decriminalise prostitution, which was passed by Parliament in 2003. She was a member of the Prostitution Law Review Committee that reviewed the Prostitution Reform Act. She is a member of the National HIV and AIDS Forum and a consultant for the World Health Organisation in relation to HIV prevention. Previous honour: New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban was appointed assistant vice-chancellor (Pasifika) of Victoria University of Wellington in 2010, immediately after she completed four terms in Parliament as a Labour MP from 1999-2010. She has been or is patron of numerous organisations, including the Wellington Pasifika Business Network and Wellington Rugby League. She has been a member of Creative NZ Arts Council since 2014 and was chairwoman of the Pacific Arts Committee from 2013-14. Since 2017 she has been a member of the Australasian Association for Institutional Research, the New Zealand Institute of Directors, the Commissioner of Police’s National Pacific Advisory Forum and an auditor for the Academic Quality Agency for New Zealand Universities. Previous honour: QSO, New Year 2011.

Dame Emeritus Professor Charmian O’Connor is internationally recognised for her contributions to chemistry and education. She was instrumental in establishing the independent Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust and chaired it from 2005-13. As a professor at the University of Auckland from 1986 and emeritus professor from 2004 she has been a member or chaired many advisory committees. She has also been on councils of the Manukau Institute of Technology and Unitec. Previous honour: Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Queen’s Birthday 1989.

Dame Julie (Jools) Topp and Dame Lynda Topp have performed as The Topp Twins for more than 30 years. Albums include Flowergirls and Cowgirls (2005) and Honky Tonk Angel (2009). In 2008, they were inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. A documentary feature film, The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (2009, won several international awards and broke local box office records. A TV series, Topp Country, ran from 2014-17. Previous honours: MNZM, New Year 2004.

Knight Companions of the Order of Merit (DNZM) 
Sir Hekenukumai Busby is a master waka builder and accomplished carver who has been widely recognised for his services to Māori. This includes organisations such as the Waitangi National Trust, Polynesian Voyaging Society in Hawaii, and Te Tai Tokerau Māori District Council. His carving school is based at his property in Aurere, Doubtless Bay. Previous honours and awards: Te Wananga o Awanuiarangi honorary doctorate in Māori development, 2017; ONZM, New Year 2014; MBE, Queen’s Birthday 1994; and New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal.

Sir William (Bill) English was the 39th prime minister of New Zealand from December 2016 to October 2017, the culmination of a political career that began when he was elected MP for Wallace (now the Clutha-Southland electorate) in 1990. He became a list-only MP in 2014 and was minister of finance and deputy prime minister in the Sir John Key-led government from 2008. He has been leader of the opposition twice, from 2001-03 and again after the election defeat in September 2017 until his resignation in February 2018.

Sir John Rowles is an internationally renowned singer, who has performed in the US, the UK, Australia and Hawaii. Many of these performances have raised funds for underprivileged children and created awareness for issues such as teenage suicide. More recently he had a cameo role in Second-Hand Wedding (2008). He performed a farewell tour in 2011 before returning to the stage in 2014 for his I’m Back Again Australian tour. This was followed by his autobiography, If I Only Had Time (2012), and an anthology album of the same name in 2013. Previous honour: OBE, New Year 1979.


Dame Charmian O'Connor has been instrumental in establishing the Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust.

Companions of the Order of Merit (CNZM)  
Kristine Bartlett has more than 20 years’ experience in the aged-care industry and with the Service and Food Workers Union (now E Tū) lodged a claim in 2012 that eventually led to a landmark equal pay case in 2017.

Richard Griffin was chairman of Radio New Zealand (RNZ) from 2011-18. As a journalist, he was RNZ’s political editor in the 1980s and was chief press secretary and media adviser to Prime Minister Jim Bolger from 1993-98. His career also includes a senior executive position at TVNZ from 2000-07 and director of a public relations consultancy from 2007-13.

Nigel Hampton QC is an internationally recognised criminal lawyer and became the first disciplinary commissioner of counsel before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2007. In 2014 he was elected as an alternate member of the ICC’s Disciplinary Appeals Board. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1989 and has been involved as a defence lawyer in many high-profile and controversial criminal cases. Most recently, he was a counsel to the Pike River Royal Commission and various inquiries into the collapse of the CTV building. He was chief justice of the Kingdom of Tonga from 1995-97 and is a judicial officer for World Rugby, SANZAAR (South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby), and New Zealand Rugby. Previous honours and awards: Taufa’ahau Tupou IV (Silver) Coronation Jubilee Medal, Tonga, 1996; New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal; and OBE, Queen’s Birthday, 1988.

Bryce Johnson was appointed the first director of the national executive of NZ Acclimatisation Societies in 1980 and later re-designated as chief executive of the NZ Fish & Game Council, a role he held until December 2017. Mr Johnson was instrumental in the establishment of the New Zealand Landcare Trust and the architect of the Conservation Law Reform Act 1990. In 2003, he led Fish & Game’s “dirty dairying” campaign that raised public awareness of worsening water quality issues.

Amanda Oakley is a dermatologist who founded DermNet NZ, the world’s most popular online resource for skin health and where she continues as editor in chief. Dr Oakley has practised in the Waikato region since 1986 and was clinical director of the Department of Dermatology of Waikato District Health Board for 12 years. Since 2002, she has taught as an honorary and adjunct associate professor at the University of Auckland’s Waikato Clinical Campus. She is the author of the Textbook of Teledermatology and Dermatology Made Easy.

Faye Sumner has been chief executive officer of the Medical Technology Association of New Zealand (MTANZ) since 2000 and has contributed to medical industry development for 30 years. She has been an advocate and promoter of local startup companies in the New Zealand MedTech sector and helped expand its annual conference from a small focused meeting for suppliers and procurement managers to what is now the HealthTech Week.

Barry Thomas is a chartered accountant who has chaired Skyline Enterprises, one of the country’s most successful tourism businesses for 33 years, It has a market capitalisation of $780 million and employs more than 1000 fulltime employees. It has businesses throughout New Zealand as well as operations in Singapore, Canada, and South Korea. He established Mountain Scene, which started as tourist publication to promote the Southern Lakes region and is one of the most awarded independent newspapers. It is now owned by Allied Press. Mr Thomas was instrumental in establishing casinos in Queenstown and Christchurch and their charitable trusts, which have distributed more than $4 million to community groups. He has also been a board member of Christchurch International Airport, Queenstown Airport Corporation and the New Zealand Rugby Union as well as several tourism-related organisations.


The Topp Twins previously held MNZM, given in the 2004 New Year's honours.

Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) – selective list
Philip Bell, a pioneer and champion of hip-hop music for nearly 30 years in a range of roles, including performing as DJ Sir-Vere.

Scott Blanks helped found Auckland's The Classic, the country's first dedicated comedy club, in 1997. He is considered the “Godfather of New Zealand comedy.”

Roger Donaldson is a writer, director, producer, cinematographer and photographer who has made feature films and documentaries in New Zealand and internationally – Sleeping Dogs, The World’s Fastest Indian and McLaren, among them.

Dallas Fisher is a founder of NDA Group, a Waikato engineering firm, managing director of 37 South Events and a director of Montana Catering. He is a philanthropic contributor to Hospice Waikato and a wide range of other not-for-profit organisations. He chairs the board of the Go Bus Group and has been chairman of the Chiefs rugby franchise for eight years.

Briar Grace-Smith, a playwright and writer of short fiction, films and television. These include The Strength of Water, Fresh Meat and an episode in Waru.

Richard Jeffery has raised nearly $100 million to establish the Vodafone Events Centre and the Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Manukau.

Bob Kerridge, son of cinema pioneer Sir Robert Kerridge, was executive director of the SPCA in Auckland from 1984-2016, during which time he became one of the country’s best-known animal welfare promoters. He established the St James Saviours Group in 2009 to undertake the preservation of the historic St James Theatre in Auckland and then the St James Auckland Trust. Previous honour: MNZM, New Year 2005.

Annabel Langbein, a cook and food writer who has self-published 25 cookbooks and made three seasons of Annabel Langbein: The Free Range Cook, which has screened in 94 countries.

Peter Lorimer has worked at the Treasury since 1988 where he has played a key role in developing legislation, such as the Fiscal Responsibility Act 1994 and the Public Finance Act 1989.

Larry Parry has had a long career with the screen industry since the 1970s as a producer, scriptwriter and director (A Soldier’s Tale). He is now chief executive of funding agency Te Māngai Pāho.

Nicola Shadbolt has been a professor of farm and agribusiness management at Massey University since 1996. She was the first elected woman director of the Fonterra Cooperative Group is a director of the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association. She is co-editor of the textbook Farm Management in New Zealand.

Roger Shepherd established Flying Nun Records in 1981 and has since fostered, recorded and promoted New Zealand music. His book, In Love with These Times – My Life With Flying Nun Records, was published in 2016.

Graeme Titcombe had an extensive career in the electrical and electronic manufacturing and service industries in New Zealand and Australia before becoming chief executive of Access HomeHealth (now Access Community Health, a provider of home-based health and disability services owned by Rural Women New Zealand.

Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) – selective list
Deborah Challinor is a historian and a best-selling author. Her first books, Grey Ghosts (1998) and the co-authored Who’ll Stop the Rain (2000) were based on her research on the Vietnam war. She then turned to historical fiction set in New Zealand’s past, producing some 15 locally published novels before switching to an Australian publisher. She has been the country’s top-selling for the past three years and her books have been translated into German, Russian and Czech.

Brian Clarke retired from the public service in 2017, spent mainly in the justice sector and the Department of Internal Affairs, where he was responsible for government-held information. Positions included Registrar-General, Births Deaths and Marriages and general manager, strategic projects, information and knowledge services. Previous honour: New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal.

Jackie Clarke has been an entertainer for more than 35 years in music, stage and television. These include vocal groups When the Cat’s Been Sprayed and The Ladykillers, musicals such as Mamma Mia and Sweet Charity, and TV comedies Skitz and The Semisis.

Ainsley Gardiner has produced feature films and television programmes that range from Kombi Nation to Taika Waititi’s Eagle Versus Shark (2007) and Boy (2009). More recent features are Fantail (2013) and The Pā Boys (2014).

Leanne Graham is a technology entrepreneur who is recognised internationally as a leader in the field of software as a service. She has owned or managed companies such as Exonet 6, Enprise Solutions and Xero. She founded Cloud Rainmakers Ltd and became chief executive of GeoOp in 2013 through to its listing on the NZAX.

Grant Nisbett has had a career in broadcasting since the late 1960s and has been a sports commentator for rugby, cycling, boxing, bowls and cricket. This includes nearly 300 All Black matches for Sky TV. He is also employed as media liaison manager for New Zealand Racing.

Joe Walls has been involved with the thoroughbred racing industry for close to 50 years and has been chairman of New Zealand Bloodstock for the past 12 years. He became an auctioneer in 1972 and has handled yearling sales here and in Australia, Singapore and South Africa. He retired as senior auctioneer at the Karaka sales complex last year. 

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