Science and research is recognised in King’s Birthday Honours

Several  scientists were among the recipients of honours bestowed in today’s King’s Birthday and Coronation Honours list.

The 2023 King’s Birthday and Coronation Honours include one appointment to the Order of New Zealand, one Dame Grand and six appointments as Dames and Knights Companion.

On behalf of all New Zealanders, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thanked the 182 Kiwis being recognised for their service.

Press statements were issued by Sports Minister Grant Robertson (Sports stars and administrators honoured) and Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson (Kapa Haka rangatira amongst those honoured on King’s Birthday) to congratulate the sporting stars and administrators and Māori from all walks of life who were honoured.

No similar statement was released by Research, Science and Innovation Minister Ayesha Verrall.

But the people who were honoured for their scientific and science-related work included: –

Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit:  

FRENCH, Distinguished Professor Nigel Peter

For services to epidemiology

Professor Nigel French began his career as an epidemiologist in the United Kingdom before moving to New Zealand, where he was appointed Professor of Food Safety and Veterinary Public Health at Massey University in 2004.

He pioneered the use of genomic sequencing to trace the source of outbreaks of food and water-borne bacteria, community infections, and controlling Mycoplasma bovis in livestock. His research in 2005 pinpointed sources of food-borne Campylobacter infections, informing interventions which halved the rate of infection by 2007/2008. He helped contain the 2016 waterborne disease outbreak in Havelock North and has worked with iwi and the Uawa/Tolaga Bay community to help ensure food and water quality.

Professor French founded the Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health laboratory in 2005 and the Infectious Disease Research Centre at Massey in 2012. He was founder and inaugural Director of the New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre. He founded and led the New Zealand-China Food Protection Network and was a founder and co-director of One Health Aotearoa (OHA). Through OHA and other initiatives, he has led inter-disciplinary research programmes in both New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He has provided technical advice towards New Zealand’s COVID-19 response.

Professor French has been involved with international research initiatives, including food safety, infectious diseases and zoonoses in Tanzania.

GILBERTSON, Ms Deborah Kennedy (Deb)

For services to business, science and technology

Ms Deb Gilbertson has been contributing to the science and technology sectors for more than 40 years.

Ms Gilbertson established Te Kaihau Education Trust in 2006,a consultancy which grows leaders to innovate for a better world. Through Te Kaihau, she was awarded a United Nation’s Alliance of Civilizations award for her ‘Global Enterprise Experience’ contest, for its impact on fostering cross-culturalism, peer-leadership and social entrepreneurship in 120 countries. She founded the Emergent Māori Women’s Leadership Programme and the Women in Agriculture Network, which achieved a membership of 10,000 in its first decade of operation. She designed and ran the National Venture Capital Industry Development Workshop in 1986, which led to significant policy changes and an increase in number of venture capital organisations. She co-founded and was a member of the Wellington Venture Capital Association board and was a member of Te Ao Kotahi Trust board which promotes social and economic development. She established and was a member of the Innovative Technologies Programme board and the Chair of DSIR’s Science and Technological Advisory Council. Ms Gilbertson was a member of the Lincoln University’s Agricultural Economics Research Unit, through which she developed and ran a National Goat Industry Development workshop, which generated $5 million support for the industry.

PRIME, Mr Samuel Kevin (Kevin), ONZM, MBE

For services to Māori, the environment and health

Mr Kevin Prime (Ngāti Hine, Ngapuhi, Ngāti Whatua, Tainui) has contributed to Māoridom for more than 50 years, has been a distinguished official for various Crown entities for 40 years, and was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2016 for his services to conservation and Māori.

Mr Prime has been a member of the Waitangi Tribunal since 2021. Having been an original writer of the Resource Management Act in 1991, he was appointed in 2019 as an expert panellist for the Government’s review of the RMA. He was made Life Patron of Ngāti Hine Health Trust in 2019, having been founding Secretary of the organisation established to support the health needs of his hāpu in the early 1990s, which has grown to support all of Ngāti Hine and become one of the largest employers in Te Tai Tokerau. He continues his involvement as a Commissioner of the Environment Court since 2003, as Vice Chairman of Ngā Whenua Rāhui, and Kaumatua of Foundation North, having previously been Chairman. He has been on the governance Board of the Bio Heritage National Science Challenge since 2015, which has sought to solve the issue of Kauri Dieback. His contributions have supported the development of the most successful treatment for Kauri Dieback to date. Mr Prime was instrumental in Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust’s inception and was involved until 2005.

WICKHAM, Dr Brian Walter

For services to the dairy industry and statistical genetics

Dr Brian Wickham has pioneered the use of world leading animal genetic and breeding evaluation systems to enhance New Zealand’s dairy industry on the international stage.

Dr Wickham studied agricultural science at Massey University in 1966, later completing a PhD at Cornell University in New York. For 22 years he worked for the Livestock Improvement Corporation, holding several roles including Statistician Geneticist, Information Resource Manager, Research Manager and Deputy General Manager. During his tenure, he led the implementation of New Zealand’s National Dairy Herd Improvement Database, widely regarded as underpinning productivity advancement in the dairy industry. The database continues to play a central role in sustaining animal genetic evaluation systems worldwide. He was Foundation Chair of INTERBULL from 1987 to 2000 and Vice President from 1992 to 2000. He was Acting Secretary General in 2014/2015 of the International Committee for Animal Recording, playing a pivotal role in promoting the genetic improvement of dairy cattle on a global scale. As Chief Executive of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation from 1998 to 2012, Dr Wickham stabilised Ireland’s cattle breeding programme by collating data from diverse sources to create a world class genetic evaluation system, taking Ireland to the forefront of animal genetic improvement on the international stage. The Federation established the Brian Wickham Travel Bursary Prize in 2022.

Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit    

CONSTANTINE, Professor Rochelle Lee

For services to wildlife conservation and marine biology

Professor Rochelle Constantine has undertaken pioneering research into the conservation of marine mammals for 30 years.

Professor Constantine is the Head of the Marine Mammal Ecology Lab at the University of Auckland-Waipapa Taumata Rau School of Biological Sciences. She has led ground-breaking scientific research into endemic dolphin species and has advised government departments on threat management plans for Hector’s and Māui dolphins. She led research into ‘ship-strike’ of Bryde’s whales in the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in speed restrictions being imposed in shipping lanes to reduce the instances of accidental whale deaths in the area. She has led research into the migratory patterns of humpback whales in Oceania, the Kermadec Islands and Antarctica. She has been on the Executive Committee of the South Pacific Whale Consortium since 1998 and was a co-founder of the MAUI63 Charitable Trust, researching innovative ways to protect marine life using modern technology. She has worked closely with mana whenua, has been the Science Advisor to the Live Ocean Foundation since its inception and has advised other NGOs including the World Wildlife Fund, Forest and Bird, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and Project Jonah. Professor Constantine has authored 147 scientific publications and has been the Chair of the International Whaling Commission – Southern Ocean Research Partnership humpback whale research since 2010.

TOWNS, Emeritus Professor David Robert (Dave)

For services to conservation

Emeritus Professor Dave Towns is regarded as one of New Zealand’s most influential conservation scientists for his work on the taxonomy and ecology of mayflies, his research on eradicating introduced rats from islands in New Zealand and for initiating science of restoration on New Zealand islands.

Professor Towns joined the Wildlife Service where he led projects that in 1986 eradicated all rats and rabbits from Korapuki Island in the Mercury islands. Between 1988 and 1993, and in collaboration with ICI Crop Care Division, he was lead researcher for field tests of the efficacy of different rodenticides, ultimately leading to the extermination of rodents from more than 90 New Zealand islands. He was science advisor for pest eradications in the Bay of Islands, Hauturu, Taranga and Rangitoto-Motutapu. Monitoring after these eradications showed recovery of up to eight populations of tuatara, as well as the successful introduction of rare Whitakers’ skink to three islands. In total, he has been involved in sixteen successful translocations of six species of skinks and one gecko to predator-free islands. He has published 83 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has edited or written seven books. As a result of Professor Towns’ research and trials, hundreds of native species are now recovering on islands, many of which were on the verge of expiration.

WEARING, Dr Christopher Howard (Howard)

For services to entomology and the fruit and orchard industries

Dr Howard Wearing is an entomologist and pioneer of sustainable pest management in New Zealand’s fruit and orchard industries.

Dr Wearing worked for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) from 1967 to 1990, undertaking extensive research into innovative pest management techniques in apple orchards nationally. He played a key role in the implementation of best-practice modern apple production in New Zealand to minimise damage to fruit while maintaining high yields. His programme ‘Biological Orchard Production Systems’ and the associated Integrated Fruit Production programme, which operated from 1992 to 2001, reduced the use of insecticides by 90 percent and led to a significant increase in New Zealand’s fruit exports, including organic apples. He was Team Leader of the Ecology and Horticulture Groups from 1972 to 1984 and then Assistant Director of Entomology Division DSIR until 1990. He oversaw teams of scientists whose research made significant contributions to government funded science nationally, including gaining access of pip fruit and summer fruit to the Japanese market. Since retiring in 2001, he has continued to publish significant research, providing new insights guiding the use of biological control in New Zealand’s low pesticide input and organic fruit production systems. Dr Wearing has published more than 150 scientific papers and the 2019 book ‘Farewell Silent Spring: The New Zealand Apple Story’.

WILLIAMS, Emeritus Professor Paul Worthing

For services to geoscience and environmental science

Emeritus Professor Paul Williams has undertaken world-leading research in geomorphology, hydrology, karst and paleoclimatology for more than 50 years.

Professor Williams has held several roles at the University of Auckland since 1972, including Deputy Dean of Science and Head of the Geography Department. He led the establishment of Environmental Science teaching in 1975. He led the 1974 Waitomo Cave Research Project, creating sustainable management guidelines for the Waitomo Glow Worm Cave to operate as a tourist attraction. He directed the 1983 Upper Waitemata Harbour Study for the Auckland Regional Authority, providing guidelines for sustainable land and water management. He researched and assembled New Zealand stable isotopic data spanning the last 125,000 years, which is used to inform climate change models. He is a world-leading expert in karst landscapes, landforms and aquifers formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks that occur across 13 percent of the Earth’s continental area. He became a member of the World Commission for Protected Areas in 2001, an expert specialist since 2008 for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Councillor since 2018 of the IUCN Geoheritage Specialist Group. His input on international conservation has contributed to many sites being awarded natural World Heritage status. Professor Williams has authored books which remain foundational texts for geological and geographical research and teaching.

 Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit  

SMITH, Dr Susan Margaret (Huhana)

For services to the environment

Dr Huhana Smith (Ngāti Tukorehe, Te Mateawa, Ngāti Rangitāwhia, Ngāti Kapumanawawhiti ki Kuku) has been addressing climate change concerns for costal land along Horowhenua and Kapiti, through Massey University’s School of Art.

Dr Smith is the head of the School of Art, leading the largest Māori-led research project into climate change, with local iwi and hapu. She has led to create innovative approaches and outcomes, across transdisciplinary spaces, discourses, realities, with mātauranga Māori, sciences and communities. She has led her team to work with Māori land and farm-owners and used their ancestral knowledge and whakapapa to encourage a better understanding of climate change. She was part of the Deep South Challenge Vision Mātauranga science programme, which included seven science projects looking at how climate change would affect Māori primary industries, tourism and taonga. As a result, several projects were created using detailed imagery in maps, large-scale aerial photography and images from drone cameras, with several exhibitions showcasing how the coastal areas will be impacted. Dr Smith was elected as co-chair of Horizons Climate Action in 2021, comprising of seven Mayors from the region and tangata whenua members, tasked with addressing the impact of climate change in Manawatū and the surrounding areas.

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog