New Year honours 2024: The Southern recipients

ODT reporters talked to every Southern recipient of a 2024 New Year honour. 

Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM)


Services to sports administration


David Beeche
David Beeche
David Kenrick Beeche was a lawyer, accountant and marketing manager before he found his niche in sport.

This year he led the delivery of the Fifa Women’s World Cup for Australia and New Zealand.

Next year he will begin his role as Queenstown-based tourism company RealNZ’s chief executive.

Mr Beeche said his first role in sport was running Triathalon New Zealand, during which time he had his first foray into major events hosting the Triathalon World Championships in 2012.

He absolutely loved working in sport, he said.

"The ability to have a positive impact on people’s lives through sport is a pretty cool place to be working.

"I’m a huge believer in the power of sport not only for the physical wellbeing it delivers but the mental and that’s not just from an individual perspective but the communities that build around sport and interactions that people have makes a really positive impact in people’s lives.

"That’s what’s been driving me for the last 15 years in this space," Mr Beeche said.

He was proud to have delivered the Fifa Women’s World Cup to millions of viewers around the world and to more than 700,000 attendees in New Zealand.

There was a lot of pressure given the success of the previous edition of the world cup in France and the momentum in women’s sport from the recent Rugby World Cup, he said.

"We really wanted to make sure we did that justice and really achieved for women another step change in the growth of the sport and I think we delivered on that and that’s pretty awesome."

Next year will not be Mr Beeche’s first time in Queenstown.

He was on the team that developed the Queenstown Marathon from the ground up.

He said the marathon was an event that was close to his heart.

"I’m super proud of that one in terms of my career in sport. That one has really captured the hearts and minds of New Zealanders and has attracted tens of thousands of people to running events that otherwise might not have done it."

The marathon hosted 6000 people in its first edition in 2014 and nearly this year’s edition hosted 12,000 people.

He was looking forward to being a southern man, he said.

"It’s been a life-long dream to move down.

"I fell in love with Queenstown and the region when I saw it as a teenager and more recently working with the marathon."

It was a big honour to be made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit because it reflected not only his work but the work of the thousands of people who helped make the Fifa Women’s World Cup a reality in partnerships with governments across the world and thousands of suppliers.

"It’s definitely the partnership that made that event as successful as it was."

Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)



Services to community and sport


Aaron Fleming
Aaron Fleming
For Aaron Fleming, his New Year’s honour is for everyone who supported him — from the hospital bed to the finishing line.

Mr Fleming has become a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the community and sport.

"I found out when I got a letter from the Governor-General — it was quite the surprise. I’m very humbled."

He has competed in 16 Ironman competitions, led several fundraising and community initiatives, and is the Southern South Island director for the Department of Conservation.

Mr Fleming was inspired to compete in Ironman competitions in 2004 by a competitor raising funds and awareness for cystic fibrosis.

"Everything I have done in my life would not have been possible without the support of someone.

"It doesn’t matter whether they’ve been there for me at the finish line, or seen me when I was at my hospital bed, they’ve all been there when it has mattered."

Mr Fleming authored the book Purpose and has done motivational speaking in schools throughout New Zealand for charities such as Proud to Play, which promotes inclusiveness and diversity in sport and recreation.

"I had a tough time as a teenager, and I was driven to help others realise their potential.

"There’s always been someone in my corner, so I wanted to be there for other people."

Despite suffering from his own serious health condition, he trained for his first Ironman in 2006.

"I went through a difficult period, but ultimately the experience told me that life is short."

He described his work for Doc as the "best job in the world".

"I have the privilege of looking after the most spectacular parts of the country.

"It’s why people come to New Zealand to visit. It’s so special."

But for Mr Fleming, there was more work to do.

"This is absolutely about working with others."



Services to arts and local government


Trevor Kempton
Trevor Kempton
For Trevor Kempton, leveraging a career in business has been fruitful to both the arts and local government.

The former Otago regional councillor, from 2010 to 2019, said he was "surprised and chuffed" to receive the honour of a New Zealand Order of Merit.

His business expertise allowed him to aid in the sustainability of both these sectors, a particular focus of his.

"The arts in New Zealand are consistently battling to survive, and it’s to the credit of hundreds of volunteers working in a multitude of roles that the arts are as prominent and achieve internationally as well as they do.

"There is a big support structure under the arts and I am just one of those people."

Mr Kempton held administrative and leadership roles with Kaikorai Metropolitan Brass and St Kilda Brass, and was a national executive member of the Brass Bands Association of New Zealand. During his involvement at a national level, Mr Kempton was particularly invested in maintaining the number of young people entering brass bands.

Determining the period in young people’s training when they were vulnerable to move off to other things was critical, and a consideration he implemented into their training programmes with the association.

Mr Kempton chaired the Southern Brass Academy, from 2007 to 2011, chaired the board of Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand Trust, until 2016, and is a trustee of the Choirs Aotearoa Foundation, since 2021.

When it came to his work in local government, chairing the Regional Transport Committee similarly shed insight into the issue of sustainability.

Mr Kempton was deeply involved in matter of cycleways and walkways, from commuting and recreational perspectives.

He said his work as a resource management commissioner was particular rewarding, gaining an understanding around water quality and what was required to improve it.

He also helped re-establish the Otago Heritage chapter of Engineering New Zealand, as its current secretary and a former chairman.



Services to arts and community


Philippa Laufiso
Philippa Laufiso
Philippa Laufiso says her passion for arts and the community comes from her mother.

Ms Laufiso, lead adviser for Pacific Engagement in Southland and Otago, credited her mother for raising her to appreciate and contribute to the community.

"She used to say things like ‘you have to love the place you live’ and we tell stories about how she used to make us go clean the park at Brockville because there was rubbish."

For Ms Laufiso, going above and beyond for the benefit of the community came as second nature.

"We’re hard-wired to serve, that’s our cultural default."

"Serving is about helping and supporting, it’s about respect and honouring people."

Ms Laufiso had been an education adviser for priority learners with the Ministry of Education for Southland and Otago since 2015.

She volunteered as a committee member and trustee of the Otago Polyfest and was co-chair of the event in 2018, stepping in as general manager in 2023.

Ms Laufiso was a trustee on the board of the Otago Community Trust from 2013 to 2021, supporting the trust to fund charitable purposes, providing grants to not-for-profit groups.

She was a Dunedin City Council’s Creative Dunedin Partnership member, and helped to found the Ōtepoti Pasifika Arts Collective. She advocated for an emphasis on vocational pathways for secondary and tertiary students wanting to work in the arts in Otago and was recently appointed to the board of the New Zealand Music Commission.

Ms Laufiso had been organising events since she was in high school.

"I’ve been doing this sort of thing for a long time.

"Everything from talent quests to sports events, music gigs and concerts."

She had always been passionate about the arts and had many projects planned for the future, including a new album from a Dunedin band she helped manage called Koile.



Services to New Zealand Police and Search and Rescue

Search and rescue is a team game, honours recipient Aaron Nicholson says. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Search and rescue is a team game, honours recipient Aaron Nicholson says. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Wānaka’s former Land Search and Rescue (SAR) chairman and co-director of the Contact Epic mountain bike race has been named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours list.

Aaron Nicholson has been involved with the award-winning Wānaka LandSar team for 22 years, first as a police sergeant providing operational support, and continuing as a civilian volunteer after his retirement from the police in 2018.

Mr Nicholson resigned as Wānaka SAR chairman earlier this year after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, so he could focus on treatment and recovery.

Mr Nicholson said he was "super humbled to be recognised and nominated for this award by my peers but nothing you achieve in SAR is done in isolation".

"It’s a great big team game.You need good people behind you, beside you and looking ahead, in front of you to ensure that great work gets done and there is a lasting legacy.

"I’ve had the pleasure to be able to stand on the shoulders of giants, which has made my 22 year SAR tenure so much fun — Alan Gillespie, Stu Thorne, Geoff Wayatt, Gary Dickson, Phil Melchior and Bill Day to name but a few.

"Wānaka SAR is a great organisation, built on the principles of service and helping those in need in the back country but what I very much enjoy is the shared ethos in the relentless pursuit of excellence within the group.

"Being good is not always good enough when people’s lives may be at stake. We can and should always try to be better," Mr Nicholson said.


Queen’s Service Medal (QSM)



Services to community and local government


Lyall Bailey
Lyall Bailey
Lyall Bailey avoids the limelight so shining a spotlight on him as a recipient of the Queen’s Service Medal has been both "humbling and uncomfortable".

"I’m aware that there are many others in the community who have given generously of their time," he said.

He was a member of the Rotary club in Winton for 50 years, and was chairman of the Winton Community Board from 1989 to 2001. As chairman, he led a major project to redevelop Winton’s main street.

"We had a vision for the main street and I was just lucky that we had a great community board,’ the grateful ex-colleague said.

Under his leadership, the Southland District Council won an excellence award for best practice in Infrastructure Management in 2016.

Born in Winton in 1945, the proud local ran the Royal Mail service for 43 years while tending to his 62ha sheep farm.

He credited his wife Lenore for helping him manage the postal service and for her support while he worked as a councillor.

In 2001 he was elected as a councillor to Southland District Council and served until 2016.

He chaired several of the council’s committees and was involved in upgrading Winton’s swimming pool, skatepark and memorial hall.

"It was important to have a hub for the community" and after the hall was given a facelift, "people flocked back to using it", he recalled.

He chaired the Central Southland Hospital Charitable Trust from 2013 to 2020.

Securing funding for Winton’s medical centre and maternity hospital meant "new mothers had somewhere to stay and a good start to motherhood".

Mr Bailey was a justice of the peace from 2005 until retiring this year.



Services to multisport


David Burnett
David Burnett
Invercargill dairy farmer David "Ginge" Burnett does not know who nominated him for the Queen’s Service Medal and thought the reward was meant for "somebody else".

Being recognised for his services to multisport was a "surprise" and he thought "a mistake had been made".

His dedication to the multisport world included being a member of the Southland Triathlon and Multisport Club Committee for 24 years and president of the club from 2005 to 2019.

Mr Burnett spearheaded events that included the Southland Summer Challenge, Southland Schools’ Triathlon Championships, Ascot Park Triathlon, Riverton to Zookeepers Race, and the Total Life Kids’ TRYathlon.

The multisport enthusiast was motivated to do his bit for Invercargill because it was about "giving back to the community".

"It’s important for children and adults to help themselves. When you see the satisfaction on their faces it makes it all worthwhile," he said.

Cycling 3015km of the Te Araroa Trail to help raise funds for the sensory playground at Waihopai School’s Park Unit was a highlight and life goal.

Mr Burnett has coached the Woodlands Schoolboy Rugby Club throughout the 2000s and was president of the Southland BMX Club from 2009 to 2018.

He was a trustee on the Sport Southland board of trustees from 2008 to 2013 and on the Southland Indoor Leisure Pursuit Centre board of trustees from 2015 to 2018.

Reconnecting with a child he coached "back in Woodlands", who was now 21 and remembered him as "Ginge" made his life’s voluntary work "all worth it".



Services to Fire and Emergency New Zealand and community


Paul Clements
Paul Clements
A longtime serving member for Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Waitaki local Paul Clements has seen the realities of accidents, crashes, deaths and trauma first-hand.

Twenty years ago, Mr Clements and his colleagues at the Dunedin station sat down and came up with an idea to "fill a void" in the Fenz support system — protecting the mental health of their fellow firefighters.

"The programme before the peer-support programme was an on-station programme, and it was being told to harden up."

The establishment of the programme started small, with firefighters banding together to give one another someone to talk to, lean on, and somebody they could go to and ask for help.

"It’s about empowering the people you work with, to provide uniting and practical intervention after a traumatic incident.

"You learn the realities of the job very quickly, you can end up going out and seeing a friend, family member or a neighbour."

Twenty years on, the programme has blossomed into being the cornerstone of support mechanisms available to serving firefighters and has been introduced nationwide.

Mr Clements was deployed to Christchurch following the 2010 and 2012 earthquakes to provide peer support to emergency responders supporting the city’s recovery efforts.

For Mr Clements, the award is not just for him, but also "a whole group of people behind the scenes, rarely being seen" who continue to work hard to keep the peer-support system running.

Since retiring from being a career firefighter 10 years ago, Mr Clements has continued to volunteer with the Waitaki Volunteer Fire Brigade and also lends his time to various other community organisations, including Victim Support, Habitat for Humanity and Special Rigs for Special Kids.

He is also very active in conservation and restoration, having almost rebuilt the schoolhouse in Port Craig in Southland fully and spending much time on Quarantine Island in Otago Harbour, restoring the premises.



Te Anau
Services to the community


Brian McCandless
Brian McCandless
Personal loss became the catalyst for a life of community service for Irish-born Brian McCandless.

The ex-airforce buddy he met at a funeral recognised his former air vice-marshal was in trouble.

The friend said, "you look awful, I’ve got just the thing for you".

"He got me involved in his disabled sailing operation and I became a different human being.

"I discovered the joy of seeing a smile on someone else’s face because of something you’ve done.

"Working for money is something we all have to do, but working for the good of the community gives you a much better feeling at the end of the day."

The decision to immigrate to New Zealand was made in 2004, but he and his wife, Yvonne, spent six years splitting their time six months in each of the United Kingdom and Te Anau before receiving permanent residency in 2010.

"We came here to retire and to enjoy ourselves and part of the enjoyment has been getting involved with the local people."

Te Anau was a welcoming and supportive community.

"We simply did the same," Mr McCandless said.

His community service included leading the Fiordland Retirement Housing Trust, which established the Murchison Villas retirement village; raising funds for a disabled sailor’s hoist; leading change at the local bridge club; founding member of Fiordland Probus; teaching children to sail, and spearheading installing all-weather turf at the local bowling club.

As the recipient of previous civic honours, he was still "thrilled" to receive the unexpected 2024 Queen’s Service Medal.

But he was most proud of establishing the Murchison Villas where locals could remain near family.



Services to outdoor bowls and smallbore rifle shooting


Neil Walker
Neil Walker
Neil Walker says his Queen’s Service Medal is testament to just getting out there and pitching in.

The Waihola resident said he had an idea he might be in line for something, but it was still a pleasant surprise to receive it.

"My daughter [Briony Hawthorne] had something to do with it, I think.

"I’m quite happy to receive it, but you don’t get involved in these activities for the recognition, you do it because you love it."

Mr Walker has been a representative shooter for South Otago for 47 years and joined the Tapanui Smallbore Rifle Club in 1962. He has since served as a participant, coach, selector, vice-president and president for smallbore rifle clubs throughout South Otago, holding almost every administrative role for the Milton Smallbore Rifle Club, South Otago Smallbore Rifle Association and Otago Provincial Smallbore Rifle Association.

He has held various roles for the South Island Smallbore Rifle Association and was president for three years.

In 2006 he was awarded life membership of the South Otago Smallbore Rifle Association.

He has represented South Otago in bowls since 1976, playing for the Waihola Club and has held many administrative roles for the South Otago Bowls Association.

"When you belong to small clubs, you end up doing everything anyway, so all of these roles just sort of happened, because there wasn’t anyone else to do them."

In 2013 he qualified as a level two bowls umpire and officiated at the New Zealand championships in 2017.

He has been president of the Bowls South Otago Umpire Association for 10 years.

"Bowls is a sport that is pretty self-regulated, so it is pretty different from being, say, a cricket umpire.

"As long as you know where your lawbook is, you are in a pretty good position."

He was looking forward to celebrating the honour with his family on New Year’s Day, and also "getting a bit of stick" from his friends in bowls and rifle shooting.

"I’m a bit of a practical joker, so I can laugh about it."