Southland’s New Year honours

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Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit
LAURA THOMPSON
Invercargill
For services to Paralympic cycling

Ten world championship medals, five Paralympics medals and now an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Laura Thompson (34) may be an inspiration and reference for many para athletes and people in Southland, but she was still surprised when she heard the news about her  honour.

‘‘I don’t know. It feels strange because I don’t feel like I do anything special… But, of course, it is very exciting.’’

Ms Thompson played basketball in her youth, progressing to the Tall Ferns.

However, she developed hip problems, requiring surgery, and was forced to retire from
basketball.

Through her rehabilitation, she developed a new passion — cycling, becoming a member of
the national development team before switching to para-cycling piloting in 2009.

In 2013, she was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Paralympic sport.

After winning several Paralympic and championship medals during her partnership with para-cyclist Emma Foy, she decided to retire from competitions and transitioned to coaching as paracycling national development co-ordinator with Paralympics New Zealand.

Living in Invercargill for about 15 years, she believed the support of the community and her family had been paramount for her life and career development.

Besides the medal, Ms Thompson has a lot to celebrate as she has just got engaged to Will
Finlayson.

Together, they have three boys, Patrick (4), Arthur (2) and Forbes (1).

‘‘Everything is for them. It has been pretty full on — three kids, the engagement and this [honour] as well. So we have a lot to celebrate in our house.’’

 

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
LEICESTER RUTLEDGE
Invercargill
For services to rugby and the community

For Leicester Rutledge, rugby was an outlet, an outlet that led him to a different life.

After getting kicked out of school aged 15, he travelled to Southland for a holiday in March 1969, and while there turned out for the Wrights Bush third grade team.

‘‘By the end of the night, they’d found a job for me and took the keys of my car and wouldn’t let me go back to Christchurch,’’ Mr Rutledge said.

Coming from a ‘‘difficult family life, getting into rugby… was an outlet’’.

That outlet eventually resulted in him playing 113 matches for Southland between 1972 and 1983 as well as 31 matches and 13 tests for the All Blacks between 1978 and 1980, with one match as captain.

He was voted the Grand Slam Tour Player of the Year in 1978, coached the Southland team for two years and has been an administrator for the club for decades.

In 2002, he was assistant coach of the unbeaten New Zealand under-19 rugby team and assistant coach of the Italian national team in 2003.

In 2011, he managed the Highlanders rugby team. He became president of the Southland
Rugby Union in 2020 and is a life member of the club.

After his playing career finished he never set out to devote his life to the game and the people who played it, he said.

‘‘If you’re involved in something you love and you want to give up your time, I just think you carry on really.’’

The game had given him a great deal, he said.

‘‘I met some wonderful people who gave me wonderful opportunities through rugby.

‘‘I’m indebted to rugby because if I wasn’t a rugby player of the highest level, really I wouldn’t know where I would be.’’

Alongside former teammate Lex Chisholm, Mr Rutledge has also been the face of the Southland bowel screening programme. Within his wider community, Mr Rutledge regularly drives the Myross Bush School bus and created Match-Fit, a basic rugby fitness programme for older men in Bluff facing health issues.

He also received the Sport Southland Services to Sport Award in 2020.

 

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
BERYL WILCOX
Invercargill
For services to the community

Helping people and giving back to her community has always been the main passions for Southland woman Beryl Wilcox.

Mrs Wilcox has contributed to community governance in the region for more than 30 years,
serving as a member or chairwoman of more than 20 local boards and committees in education, health, social development and employment.

Despite the huge effort and contribution to the community, she was still astonished and humbled to have received this honour.

‘‘It was so unexpected, but also a real tribute to all the teams that I have worked with across a variety of roles and over many years… This honour is as much about them too.’’

During the past decades, Mrs Wilcox was chairwoman of the Rimu School board of trustees and manager of Southland Community College and Youth Services.

She was also chairwoman of the Ministry of Education’s joint schools initiative funding management group, on behalf of the Southland Tertiary Training Providers Association, for 10 years and was a ministerial appointee to the board of trustees for secondary schools.

Mrs Wilcox also made her mark on Stewart Island, where she lived for about 25 years.

She was a Stewart Island Community Board member and an Oban Fire Brigade volunteer — her contribution was recognised with a life membership for 15 years of service.

Mrs Wilcox is chairwoman of the South Alive South Invercargill Urban Rejuvenation Charitable Trust and has been a trustee of South Alive Limited — The Pantry since 2020.

 

Queen’s Service Medal
GLENN COCKROFT
Invercargill
For services to traffic safety

Glenn Cockroft is following in the footsteps of his father by earning a Queen’s Service Medal.

The award recognised his dedication to the traffic safety sector within the community and
nationally for more than 30 years.

His late father, Graeme, was one of the main influences for his decision to join the Ministry of Transport Traffic Safety Service, and coincidentally received a Queen’s Service Medal when he retired from his career.

Glenn Cockroft joined the Ministry of Transport Traffic Safety Service at the age of 18 and
became a sergeant from 1989.

He was a sergeant with the New Zealand Police from 1992 until he retired from the police
in 1997.

One of the programmes he implemented and campaigned for was the national child safety
programmes which involved him travelling from North Cape to Bluff.

He showcased a mobile showroom which promoted the importance of the safety of  children.

“I spent 10 months visiting every school in the country and finished up in Bluff 10 months later.’’

To gather funds for the initiative he visited Lions Club members’ homes, communities and schools.

The impact of the programme was still seen in classrooms today, he said.

‘‘I am currently the regional manager of CrestClean and we clean a number of schools. I still see some of those resources used today — 30 years later and for me that makes the 10 months that I spent very well worth it.’’

After he completed the programme he received a commendation from the then ministers of transport and police for his contributions to child safety education.

He has been involved with national campaigns since the late 1980s.

Since he retired, he built and opened a museum dedicated to preserving New Zealand
traffic history, located on his property.

He had a large collection of memorabilia which related back to the early days of traffic  enforcement in New Zealand.

Mr Cockroft helped establish and run the Cycle Bike Park Safety Training Centre in Invercargill which he named Graeme Cockroft Cycle Park, after his father.

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