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Worthy recipients below Key limelight

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/06/2017

The headline-grabbing knighthood from this year's Queen's Birthday honours will naturally be that bestowed on former prime minister John Key.

There will be critics that six months after his resignation it is too soon, that it's an undeserved reward from his mates in government and he is simply troughing on the elitist system that his own government reinstated.

But Sir John says his successor, Bill English, left him no choice to accept the knighthood - believe that if you will - and that all PMs get honoured somehow. He says the suddenness of it is a surprise.

However, he also said the recognition of his services to the state reflected the contribution made by his wife, now Lady Bronagh, and his cabinet colleagues.

"So I hope those people can share in the accolade."

Further down the list - 108 men and 78 women, with six made either knights or dames, are recognisable names people might not argue with.

This year more people are recognised for their work with communities (50 mentions), sport and Maori. Fewer have been recognised for business contributions.

Michael Jones, the popular former All Black, is knighted for his work with the Pacific community and youth, and he speaks of the importance of the village raising a child.

"We want to make the next generation better than us," Sir Michael says.

"We want them to live in a community where they thrive even more than we have been able to."

Graeme Dingle is another keen on helping young people - knighted for services to youth.

"We have 25,000 kids in our programmes each year, but that has to grow to 100,000 and then the next part of the mission is to make New Zealand the best place in the world for kids," Sir Graeme says.

Also worthy are the damehood to Hamilton's Professor Peggy Koopman-Boyden, "who has given more than 45 years of service to research and policy advice relating to New Zealand's older population" and the knighthood to 1987's inaugural Maori Language Commissioner Timoti Karetu.

More prominent names being honoured are former Labour MP Jim Anderton (CNZM) for his services as an MP, bungy jumping pioneer AJ Hackett (ONZM) for services to adventure tourism, singer Annie Crummer (MNZM) for services to music, Allen McLaughlin (MNZM) for services to sports broadcasting since 1975 and writer Emily Perkins (MNZM) for services to literature.

This year's honours also reveal the achievements of the army's Major Andrew Thornton, who was recently with the United Nations mission in South Sudan. There he was instrumental in helping negotiate the release of 31 people taken hostage by a rebel group.

Maj Thornton's experience with the wary rebel leaders - despite talks being carried out with armed rebels about - ensured the successful hostage release, even if the helicopter which came to rescue them was shot at by the rebels.

Maj Thornton receives a Distinguished Service Decoration.

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