Running great John Walker knighted

Sir John Walker
Sir John Walker
Athletics great John Walker is New Zealand's first knight under the new royal warrant that restores knighthoods in the Queen's Birthday honours after a nine-year absence.

Sir John, who won 1500m gold at the Montreal Olympics, is appointed a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) in today's honours which include two new dames -- art patron Jenny Gibbs and educationalist Iritana Tawhiwhirangi.

The Government announced in March that titles, dropped by the Labour government in 2000, would be reinstated to the honours system and 85 New Zealanders who have been appointed Principal and Distinguished Companions could opt to become knights or dames by the end of June.

Sir John, previously honoured as Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1992, is honoured for services to sport and the community.

After an athletics career that included being the first person to break 3 minutes 50 seconds for the mile and to run more than 100 sub-four minute miles, he was diagnosed with parkinson's disease in the early 1990s.

But he has continued to be involved with sport and the community, serving on Manukau City Council since 1998. Last year he established the Find Your Field of Dreams Project in Manukau to help young people participate in sport.

Dame Jenny is appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM) for services to the arts. The public profile of the philanthropist and art collector was raised in 1997 when she negotiated with artists Tame Iti and Te Kaha for the return of a Colin McCahon painting stolen from the Aniwaniwa conservation centre at Lake Waikaremoana.

Dame Iritana, a founder of the kohanga reo movement, is appointed a DNZM for services to Maori education. In a career that began as a teacher on the East Coast in 1948, she has played a major role in reversing the decline in Maori language.

Among many other Maori recognised in the honours, leading Ngati Kuri figure Hana Romana Murray has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM).

She is the only living claimant in the Waitangi Tribunal Claim 262, in which Maori have asked the Waitangi Tribunal for exclusive and comprehensive rights to indigenous flora and fauna, as well as all Maori cultural knowledge, customs and practices, including language.

Also appointed CNZM are retiring secretary of foreign affairs and trade Simon Murdoch, recently retired Commerce Commission chairwoman Paula Rebstock, Lincoln University biologist Professor Alison Stewart, research scientist Dr Jeff Tallon, auditory neuroscientist Professor Peter Rowland and Todd Corporation chairman John Todd.

Sports people honoured include Kiwis league coach Stephen Kearney and Coast to Coast race organiser Robin Judkins, both made Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).

The world's most capped netballer, Irene van Dyk, and two former Silver Ferns Belinda Charteris and Margaret Foster, are made Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM), as are former New Zealand cricketer John Morrison and Laurie Keats, who developed shearing as a competitive sport and instigated the first Golden Shears competition.

Sports broadcaster Murray Deaker is appointed an ONZM.

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