Sir Don McKinnon recognised for 35 years of World Class service.

By Wright Communications

Sir Don received his award from Prime Minister the Rt Hon John Key at a gala dinner in Auckland tonight.

From modest beginnings as an army conscript, farm manager and real estate salesman, Sir Don went on to have the most distinguished foreign affairs career of any New Zealander on record.  He has been Commonwealth Secretary General; New Zealand's longest serving Foreign Affairs and Trade minister, a Nobel Prize nominee, and latterly, a member of the Order of New Zealand.

With such a superb CV, Sir Don became an obvious choice for judges contemplating a truly outstanding New Zealander to receive the Supreme Award in this year's World Class New Zealand Awards, which are delivered by Kea on behalf of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

"It would be hard to think of anyone more deserving of this honour then someone who has proven themselves constantly world class in 35 years of public service," says John Stace, chair of judges and Kea Global board member.

"Sir Don's championing of New Zealand - as well as championing Kiwi ethics such as fairness and humanity for all of the world's people - puts him into a league of his own."

Entering Parliament as the Member for Albany in 1978, and going on to service as the National Party's chief whip, Sir Don progressed to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister in 1990, a role in which he served a record-breaking nine years. While in Parliament he also held a diverse range of other portfolios including Veteran and Pacific Island Affairs.

Sir Don oversaw New Zealand's election to the UN Security Council in 1993 and sent Kiwi peacekeepers to help calm trouble-spots.  He also brokered an accord that ended a decade of civil war in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, in 1997, for which he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2000, Sir Don left Parliament to become Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, serving eight years. During his time in the role he had to negotiate a number of sticky political situations confronting the Commonwealth including Robert Mugabe's controversial rule in Zimbabwe and George Speight's attempted nationalist coup in Fiji.

He added the Order of New Zealand to his impressive collection of accolades in 2009, accepting the Knight Grand Cross of the Victorian Order from the Queen herself in the same year in recognition of his Commonwealth work.

With nine honorary doctorates to his name, Sir Don continues to lend his vast experience to a range of national and international organisations including the Global Panel Foundation, the Aspen Ministerial Forum, the NZ Latin American Business Council and the Waitangi National Trust Board.

Sir Don was honoured as Supreme Winner alongside seven categories winners - including electromagnet pioneer Bill Buckley, sustainable energy entrepreneur Dr Sean Simpson, animal health solutions developer Dr Doug Cleverly, international business achiever Judith Hanratty, global technology guru Geraldine McBride, food empire builder Annabel Langbein and high-flying former Air NZ CEO Rob Fyfe.

Also announced at the gala dinner was the Friend of New Zealand Award, who has made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand. This year's Friend of New Zealand went to Australian newspaper editor Andrew Holden in recognition of his efforts as editor of The Press in the wake of the deadly 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Surrounded by death and disaster Mr Holden rallied his troops and kept The Press running as a vital source of information for the devastated Christchurch community.

All World Class New Zealand awards were presented with the World Class New Zealand Tall Poppy statuette designed by Sir Richard Taylor, co-founder of Weta Workshop and Supreme Award winner in 2009.

The 2013 Awards were judged by a panel of six, comprising John Stace (Chair of judges), Jon Mayson, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas, Bridget Liddell and Sir Tipene O'Regan.

Nominees for the annual Awards are evaluated against five main criteria, with a focus on promoting New Zealand internationally, building global connections and facilitating the exchange of information, knowledge and skills from, and about, New Zealand.

The full list of winners for the 2013 World Class New Zealand Awards is:


Award category


Sir Don McKinnon

Supreme Award

(Sponsored by Air New Zealand)

Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Affairs and Trade minister; a Nobel Prize nominee.

Andrew Holden

Friend of New Zealand

(Sponsored by ANZ)

Editor in Chief of The Age newspaper, Melbourne

Dr Doug Cleverly

Life Sciences

(Sponsored by Ernst & Young)

Managing Director and Co-Founder of Argenta.

Annabel Langbein


(Sponsored by Wellington City Council)

Founder and principal of Annabel Langbein Media Ltd; Celebrity Cook, Food writer and publisher.

Judith Hanratty

Investment and Business

(Sponsored by BDO Auckland)

Former Company Secretary, BP; Director, Partner Re Ltd;

Chair, Commonwealth Education Trust

Geraldine McBride

Information and Communications

(Sponsored by AUT University)

Former President, SAP North America; advisory board member Victoria University biology school's applied science centre.

Bill Buckley

Manufacturing, Design and Innovation

(Sponsored by Douglas Pharmaceuticals)

Founder and sole owner,

Buckley Systems International Ltd.

Rob Fyfe

New Thinking

(Sponsored by Gen-i)

Former Chief Executive Officer, Air New Zealand.

Dr Sean Simpson

Science, Technology and Academia

(Sponsored by The Royal Society of New Zealand)

Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder, Lanzatech;



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