Ashley Bloomfield, Farah Palmer receive top New Year Honours

Ashley Bloomfield has been made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Photo: The...
Ashley Bloomfield has been made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Photo: The New Zealand Herald
Nearly 200 New Zealanders have been recognised in the 2023 New Year Honours list, including six new dames and knights.

Sportspeople, researchers, advocates and doctors are among the 183 being celebrated for their achievements today.

Of those on the list, 126 have been appointed to the New Zealand Order of Merit, four were made companions of the Queen’s Service Order, 49 were given the Queen’s Service Medal, one the New Zealand Antarctic Medal and three the New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who steered the country’s much-lauded Covid-19 response, has been made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to public health.

Throughout the pandemic, Sir Ashley was the director-general of health and worked under intense scrutiny for two years to drive and implement major policy decisions that have underpinned New Zealand’s response to Covid-19.

He led the rollout of the country’s most ambitious vaccination programme, through which more than 90% of eligible New Zealanders were fully vaccinated.

"I was surprised when the email came through, and I did a double take and I had to get my wife to come and have a look just to check that I’d read it correctly, so it’s a huge honour, it’s a big thing," he told the Herald.

"Family are thrilled, but in many respects nothing changes, I’m still the same person."

Receiving the honour, he said, was a huge privilege and he thanked all New Zealanders for their role in the pandemic response.

"I look back with a sense of pride, not in so much what I did, but just in what we achieved as a country."

Also among the six new Dames and Knights Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit are Miranda Harcourt, for services to the screen industry and theatre, and Dr Haare Mahanga Te Wehinga Williams for services to Maori, literature and education.

Three-time Rugby World Cup-winning Black Ferns captain, Prof Farah Palmer, Ngati Maniapoto, has been made dame companion for her work with sport, particularly rugby.

Dame Farah said she received a letter with the good news during the afterglow of the Rugby World Cup.

"Initially it’s like, would you consider it, and I’m never one to single out a person, especially in a team situation, or when you’re part of a board or part of a movement, so I was umming and ahhing for ages."

In the end, Dame Farah accepted the honour for her "mum and dad" who might be really proud, and those who have gone before her, particularly in women’s rugby.

"I feel very humbled.

"This honour represents all those trailblazers in women’s rugby and Maori rugby who work hard behind the scenes."

Fellow academic Dr Jan Wright has also been made a dame for her services to the state and the environment, and Mark Dunajtschik a knight for his various contributions to philanthropic causes and charities for more than 40 years.

New Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit include top rowers Eric Murray and Hamish Bond.

Bond and Murray won gold medals in the coxless pair at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, setting both world and Olympic records at the London Olympics.

Both men were made members of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013.

Michele A’Court has been made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, recognising her trailblazing work and advocacy in comedy.

The multi-award-winning comedian advocated for access and safety within the comedy community and provided practical assistance to many New Zealand comedians building their careers.

Pania Papa was also made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Maori language education and broadcasting in New Zealand.

She supported the revitalisation of te reo Maori as an award-winning television presenter, Maori language consultant, curriculum and resource designer, translator, and editor for the broadcasting industry and education sector.

She has lectured in Maori studies at Waikato University for 10 years and among many other achievements, has translated 12 children’s books into te reo, composed more than 40 waiata and authored the children’s lullaby anthology Pita Mata.

She was also a founding trustee of the charity supporting the Kotahi Rau Pukapuka plan to publish 100 books in Maori over 25 years.

Snow sport athletes Nico Porteous and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott have been appointed members of the New Zealand Order of Merit for their service to snow sports.

At 16, Porteous won a bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics and won gold at the 2021 X Games and became New Zealand’s first Freeski Halfpipe World Champion the same year.

This year he won gold in both the freeski halfpipe at the United States Grand Prix World Cup and the Superpipe during the X Games.

Sadowski-Synnott was the second New Zealander to win a Winter Olympic medal with her bronze in the women’s big air event at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

She won gold in the slopestyle at the 2022 Winter Olympics, becoming New Zealand’s first gold medallist at a Winter Olympics.

During that competition, she also won a silver medal in the big air event.

By Katie Harris