by Greta Yeoman
Two South Canterbury residents featured in the annual New Year Honours list earlier this month.
Former Green Party MP Mojo Mathers and author and former Grey Power president Tom O’Connor became Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit for their work in their communities.
Ms Mathers, who became the first deaf member of Parliament when she was elected in 2011, was recognised for her services to people with disabilities.
She used her position in Parliament to improve access for disabled New Zealanders to parliamentary processes, including encouraging the use of sign language interpreters in Parliament and the captioning of live screening of parliamentary sessions.
Outside Parliament, Ms Mathers has been a general advocate for the disabled community and was also a founding member of the Malvern Hills Protection Society. The society succeeded in preventing the construction of a dam in Canterbury that would have flooded part of the Waianiwaniwa River.
Her work with the society spurred her eventual shift into government-level politics.
Mr O’Connor, of Waimate, was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to senior citizens, local government and journalism.
The long-time author and journalist has published six books – including an English-Maori biography of Alfred (Bunty) Preece and a biography of Eric Batchelor, both highly decorated soldiers who served in World War 2, and three historical novels on the life of the Ngati Toarangatira leader Te Rauparaha.
He has also been a political commentator, writing for several newspapers, including past columns in The Courier, and has been a ward representative on the Waimate District Council since 2013.
His work on behalf of senior citizens has included lobbying the government on the rights of older residents.
He was the president of Grey Power from 2016 to 2018 and vice-president in 2015.
Other well-known names in the honours list included golfer Lydia Ko, musician Jenny Morris, long-time Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, who became a knight, and film-maker Gaylene Preston, who became a dame.