New Year honours 2020: Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

Marilyn Cassidy
Marilyn Cassidy
Marilyn Cassidy

For services to dance

Marilyn Cassidy says she has always tried to keep fit.

This is not surprising considering she has been a nimble-footed ballet and dance mentor across the lower South Island for 65 years.

She also credits her "young genes" as a key ingredient to her longevity.

Mrs Cassidy (80) said she was "honoured and completely taken aback" to be made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

She has taught dance in Alexandra, Clyde, Dunedin, Mosgiel and Invercargill and has performed in productions for 72 years.

At age 16, she was invited to dance with the Royal Ballet Company in London in the 1950s.

It was also around this time she was handed a significant role in a Dunedin performance of Carousel, which she has described as a career highlight.

Mrs Cassidy believes her love of ballet and dance began at an early age in Trentham, when she would bob along to the sound of the traction engines.

"Any music that came on, I would just dance to it," she said.

Having been actively involved in all aspects of the performing arts, including choreography, writing, music, scenery and costume design, she has written, directed and produced dozens of full-length ballets, including one for Dance Southland.

Her Dance for Fun classes have offered dance to a wider group of children.

"I like perfection ... I think I’m a teacher that gets out of kids their presentation, which is vital."

In later years, she has noted a shift in popularity among pupils from the disciplined form of ballet into contemporary jazz forms.

Mrs Cassidy has spent countless hours, often on an unpaid basis, helping students and groups prepare for competitions and performances, including conducting and choreographing the Clyde School choir for many years.

Mrs Cassidy, who has received the Solo Seal Award, is a life member of the Royal Academy of Dance.


Kathleen Craig
Kathleen Craig
Kathleen Mary Craig
Takaro, Palmerston North

For services to music and music education

Former Dunedin opera singer Kathleen Craig has been named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music and music education.

The 79-year-old now lives in Palmerston North and has spent more than 50 years on stage as a singer and concert co-ordinator.

Ms Craig rose to stardom along with the nationally renowned group The Majorettes, who were the Mobil Song Quest winners in 1972.

She went on to win multiple aria competitions and has sung as soloist with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and other regional orchestras.

She has been lead soprano alongside Dame Malvina Major and has starred in many operas and musical theatre productions.

In Palmerston North she runs a programme called Start Singing, which provides vocal coaching to people who do not believe they can sing, for a variety of emotional, social and physical reasons.

She has been a foundation tutor in performance at the Universal College of Learning (UCOL) and has taught singing at Nga Tawa School for Girls, Feilding High School and Freyberg High School.

For the past decade, Ms Craig has been a co-ordinator of a series of fundraisers called Wine, Women and Song which benefit charity groups, including the Stroke Foundation, the SPCA and Arohanui Hospice.

Ms Craig said the honour was a major surprise.

"It’s a great honour, and when I found out, I couldn’t believe it because what I do is something I love very, very much.

"I’m very honoured to have achieved it."


John Grant Gibson
John Grant Gibson
John Grant Gibson

For services to rugby league

Grant Gibson is "quite excited" to gain a New Year’s honour for his contributions to rugby league on the West Coast for more than 55 years.

"It’s just nice to get recognised," he said.

Mr Gibson (78) hoped the award would also contribute to greater community awareness of rugby league and its referring, and he highlighted the positive opportunities for people wanting to try refereeing.

Mr Gibson volunteered as a referee for West Coast Rugby League (WCRL) for 25 years, before becoming the chairman of the WCRL Referees Association, holding that post for the past 32 years.

He has also served on the WCRL board since 1976, including as vice-president since 1995.

A member of the directorate of the New Zealand Rugby League Referees from its inception in 1995, he has also remained a member of the NZRL referee training department after the directorate’s restructure.

Appointed as the West Coast co-ordinator by NZRL in the 1990s, he still travels throughout New Zealand holding referee seminars and training courses.

He has also been significantly involved in the development of youth rugby league in the West Coast.

And he is the referees co-ordinator at all Southern Zone Rugby League age-group tournaments.

Mr Gibson is a life member of the West Coast Rugby League Referees Association and West Coast Rugby League, and has received a Distinguished Service Medal from New Zealand Rugby League.


Tamsin Orr-Walker
Tamsin Orr-Walker
Tamsin Orr-Walker

For services to kea conservation

Tamsin Orr-Walker says the best thing about being recognised for her work with kea is that the unique mountain parrot is now seen as "important enough for an honour such as this to be given out".

Ms Orr-Walker co-founded the Kea Conservation Trust with three others in 2006, and has been a trustee and its chairwoman since.

The trust promotes and facilitates kea conservation in the wild, and improves conditions for captive kea.

As well as managing the trust’s day-to-day operation, she develops, fundraises and co-ordinates kea research projects, and is the community engagement co-ordinator for the lower South Island.

Her involvement with kea started in 2002 while working at Auckland Zoo with three captive kea, she said.

She then went back to university for three years to study and research better management of captive species.

She developed a kea husbandry manual in 2010, which has been applied throughout the country to improve the management of kea held in captivity.

She has increased public awareness of the urgency of the kea conservation, and improved the knowledge and understanding of kea ecology and threats, as well as conservation techniques.

She has built relationships with South Island communities, along with international zoos that hold kea, and has raised the human-kea conflict conservation issue with the international community of research into human-animal conflict.

Ms Orr-Walker also helped organise the trust’s first kea conferences, in 2017 and 2019.


Geoffrey Pearman
Geoffrey Pearman
Geoffrey Pearman

For services to seniors and business

The timing could not have been better for Geoff Pearman.

The letter confirming he was to be made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit — for services to seniors and business — arrived on International Day of Older Persons.

"I was absolutely blown away."

Mr Pearman (68) is a leading consultant, commentator, speaker and author in the field, which he entered after losing his job aged in his 50s.

His full-time consultancy work began when he moved from Christchurch to Brisbane following the Canterbury earthquakes, and continued when he moved to Dunedin five years ago.

By then he had established Partners in Change, a transtasman business working to address the challenges and opportunities associated with an ageing workforce.

In 2016, he founded Senior Entrepreneurs New Zealand in Dunedin to support senior entrepreneurs with networking, training, mentoring and other opportunities.

He now works in both New Zealand and Australia, as well as travelling the world from his base in Dunedin.

In between his consultancy and keynote roles, he has led a research project for Massey University, researching senior entrepreneurship in New
Zealand, and published a book to raise awareness of the challenges of increased age and work.

He was also principal adviser to the Auckland-based HT Group and its national research on New Zealand’s 55-to-70-year-old population and their working, financial and consumer behaviours.

He was also a member of the independent advisory group for the Better Later Life He Oranga Kaumatua 2019-34 strategy, and an adviser to the Retirement Commissioner on a review of retirement income policy.

Mr Pearman said he was pleased his work had "something to offer", but stressed it would have been impossible without the support of his wife, Jan.

"I guess I’m living the message. Sixty-five doesn’t mean anything — it just gives you a new income stream."


Gordon Alan Wilson
Gordon Alan Wilson
Gordon Alan Wilson

For services to education

Gordon Wilson says he has been privileged to work most of his life as a teacher and education administrator, and his New Zealand Order of Merit is a surprise bonus.

The 66-year-old worked as a teacher from 1977 to 2000, before becoming the Dunedin Districts Special Education Service director of youth services and then the Dunedin Secondary Schools Partnership (DSSP) manager.

At the DSSP, he helped establish the Built Environment and Active Transport to School (Beats) study — an ongoing study of school transport habits, the neighbourhood environment and physical activity of secondary school pupils — which informed city and rural planning, education campaigns and policy development.

Since retiring in 2018, he has been chairman of the Building a Children’s Workforce steering group, which provides an integrated response to reports of concern received by Oranga Tamariki.

The Dunedin project is now being considered for national roll-out because of the positive outcomes.

Mr Wilson has worked with the Ministry of Education to develop a secondary principal refugee steering committee, which enabled greater support for refugee programmes and resources in schools.

He was an active participant in suicide-prevention and post-suicide work, establishing strong networks between mental health services, providers and schools to work with at-risk youth.

Mr Wilson has also been secretary of the Otago Secondary Principals’ Association and the Otago Southland Secondary Principals Association.

"I wouldn’t have got here without the support of my family, and particularly my wife Clare, who has been a tower of strength during my various jobs in education," he said.

"I’ve found the work exciting and it’s been a privilege to work with the young people, teachers and principals, and the community."

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