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Rebels get their medals

Clockwise from Top left: Roger Shepherd, the Topp Twins, DJ Sir-Vere and John Rowles. Photo: Supplied.

The "rebels have got their medals" in a Queen's Birthday honours list topped by people not afraid to go against the flow.

Rabble-rousers the Topp Twins and long-time sex worker advocate Catherine Healy are among the newest dames. They are part of a group of eight named Knights or Dames Companion to the New Zealand Order of Merit in this year's honours.

Kawerau crooner John Rowles is the third entertainer on the list, becoming Sir John.

New Zealand also has its first Samoan dame in former Labour MP Luamanavao Winnie Laban.

Master waka builder and carver Hekenukumai "Hek" Busby, who helped revitalise traditional Maori seafaring, became a knight for services to Maori.

Emeritus professor Charmian O'Connor, who worked to get more women into science, is recognised for her contributions to chemistry and education.

Former prime minister Bill English has been honoured for services to the state.

Dame Jools Topp said their entertainment went hand-in-hand with their political activism and the pair would not have been considered for such an honour 30 years ago.

Sister Dame Lynda Topp said the honour was a sign of how society had changed.

"The rebels have got their medals," she said

Dame Catherine, who led the fight to decriminalise prostitution, said she spent a lot of time reflecting on what the accolade meant about how attitudes toward sex workers had changed.

"This honour, and to have it given to me, is about saying, 'Okay, it's okay, you can come in from the cold, you and yours'," she said.

Dame Winnie said her honour made her think of her parents who left Samoa in the 1950s to create a better life for their children.

"That journey and that hard work and sacrifice for me makes me reflect on why this award is so important - because it acknowledges that pacific journey of sacrifice and dreams."

Sir John said he hoped he had shown young people they could go anywhere if they set their mind to it and worked hard.

"It's something I can carry with a lot of pride on my shoulders through everything that I've achieved in the world - from Kawerau to New York."

Sir William said in public service, he never did anything on his own.

He said the honour recognised people he worked with, such as Sir John Key and Steven Joyce.

From humble beginnings in the Far North, Sir Hekenukumai was inspired to build waka after a childhood visit to Waitangi. Today he is an authority on Polynesian and Maori celestial navigation.

Dame Charmian said one of the things she was most proud of was the charitable trust she started to encourage women scientists.

"Many of these women would not be able to achieve their educational goals if it weren't for the support of a charity like the Kate Edger Trust."

An Upper Hutt McDonald's worker, Michael Riley, has been given a bravery award for calmly looking out for the welfare and safety of customers and staff members during an armed hold-up. The police officer who shot the armed man, and was shot at herself, also received a bravery award but cannot be named while the incident is investigated.

Kristine Bartlett, who successfully fought to raise the pay of the largely female aged care workforce, former journalist and RNZ chair Richard Griffin and lawyer Nigel Hampton QC all become Companions to the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Among the Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit are musician DJ Sir-Vere, aka Philip Bell, director Roger Donaldson, Black Ferns Captain Fiao'o Faamausili, athletics coach Kirsten Hellier, food writer Annabel Langbein and Roger Shepherd for services to the music industry.

Shepherd, was the Christchurch record shop clerk who went on to form Flying Nun Records, the label that released scene-defining records from The Chills, Tall Dwarfs, Straitjacket Fits and many more.

Those honoured with the title Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit include rugby historian Clive Akers, entertainer Jackie Clarke, triathlete Andrea Hewitt and sports commentator Grant Nisbett.

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