Alby humbled by Queen’s Birthday Honour

For his services to vetrans and biosecruity, Tauranga’s Albert ‘Alby’ Osborne has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Photo: Tracy Hardy.

A Tauranga man who’s spent more than 50 years serving communities all across New Zealand has been named in this’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Today it’s been announced Albert ‘Alby’ Osborne has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his decades of service to both veterans and biosecurity.

 “It certainly comes as a surprise, I don’t know what to say. It’s very humbling, I’m a bit taken aback,” says Alby.

“My wife Jill was the only one who knew I’d received the award, she congratulated me which is lovely, but while it’s all well and good giving us guys medals and awards for things we do, we couldn’t do them without the support of our wives, they’re equally part of that.”

For more than 40 years, the former navy man has voluntarily served the Returned Services Association’s Tauranga branch, and he was also the founding chairperson of the Bay of Plenty Ex-Navalmen’s Association, which he led to merger with the Royal New Zealand Naval Association.

Through his leadership, a services memorial was built at Pyes Pa Memorial Park, and Alby also both instigated and continues to conduct Anzac Day Memorial services at the nearby ex-services cemetery.

Alby was called up for military training at the age of 17, and a random run in with members of the NZ Army in Tongariro National Park helped sway his decision to join the navy.

“Before I was called up, I’d been working in Tongariro on a pest control programme when the army fullas come marching into the camp on a training run, carrying packs filled with weights. Where we were would’ve been about 20-something miles away from Waiouru.

“So when I got called up for training and the navy recruiters came into town, in my stupid youth I thought ‘if that’s what you have to do in the army, I’ll join the bloody navy instead’,” Alby says chuckling.

During his service, Alby undertook four years of intensive medical training in, which he says was comparable to studying towards become a doctor, except he was also taught pharmacy and radiology.

Since leaving the navy Alby has used his medical knowledge to voluntarily assist ex-navy personnel obtain war disability pensions and represents ex-navy veterans’ interests at national meetings with Veterans Affairs NZ.

He is also a volunteer Executor and Power of Attorney for many deceased veterans’ estates and has been an elected member of the National Executive Council of the RNZN Association since 2007, and is the Association’s first National Welfare Officer.

“I’ve been trying to help servicemen obtain their right claims, with moderate success I think, but you just got to keep trying. Politicians have a trait; the reason they were born with two hands is to take money, not give it.”

Along with his services to veterans, Alby has also dedicated a large chunk of his life – 53 years to be exact – working to protect New Zealand’s biosecruity.

He has been employed as a Biosecurity Officer for the Bay of Plenty Regional council and is a long-serving member of the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute. Alby was highly commended for his biosecurity and naval expertise following the sinking of MV Rena off Tauranga Harbour.

Alby says it was an interest in controlling invertebrate pests that started him off in biosecruity, and since then he’s been involved in the sector at all levels from one end of the country to the other, but mainly around Tongariro National Park, Bay of Plenty and Waikato.

“When I joined the industry in 1964 there was an Irishman who was recognised as a leader in biosecurity called James O’Cain. He taught me I have two eyes, two ears and one mouth and I should use them in that proportion.

“And I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes, because he’d already made them all, knew what they were and he showed me the right way. There was no excuse for mistakes and so it’s proved to be.

“Poisons are no more dangerous than rifles, but rifles don’t jump off the wall and shoot people, it’s the people hanging on to them that’s the problem. Poisons are the same, in trained hands they’re very safe. In my 53 years I never poisoned a non-targeted species, that’s down to my training I suppose.”

Alby is one of ten Bay of Plenty locals named in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours released today:


Professor Peter John Gilling - for services to Urology.

Dr Peter Gilling is an internationally renowned Urological Surgeon who has contributed significantly to the development of this field of medicine in New Zealand for more than 25 years.

Peter is a Tauranga-based Urologist and is Professor of Surgery at the University of Auckland and Head of the University’s Academic site in Tauranga. He is the Head of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board Clinical School and Head of the Clinical Trials Unit for that DHB, and was primarily responsible for the development of both these entities.

In the field of Urology he is nationally and internationally known for the research and treatment of prostate disease, particularly Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia and Cancer of the Prostate. He has pioneered a number of surgical treatments but particularly laser prostatectomy using the Holmium Laser, which has been adopted throughout the world.

He has also introduced many advanced surgical treatments into New Zealand including open, laparoscopic and robotic approaches to common urological conditions. A former Examiner for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Peter sits on the Editorial Board of six major urology journals and has published extensively in the scientific literature.



Wahiao Raymond James (Jim) Gray, JP - for services to Māori and governance

Jim Gray has contributed significantly in the area of Māori governance and trusteeship, holding a range of chairmanships and directorships across various organisations.

Jim has worked closely with the Māori Land Courts where he has been appointed a Professional Trustee on close to 40 Māori Authorities. He is recognised as one of the foremost authorities on the workings of Māori Trusts in New Zealand.

Amongst other projects he has contributed to, he spent 20 years working on the Tikitere Geothermal Development project for the construction of a geothermal power station which would eventually become the first and only 100 percent Māori-owned power project in New Zealand.

He developed and published ‘Introduction to Governance of Māori Authorities’ in 1996, the only NZQA local approved book on the subject. He was Vice President from 2007 to 2010 and then President from 2010 to 2013 of the New Zealand Trustees Association.

Jim is currently a Trustee for the NZTA Charitable Trust, the overseeing body for the Trustees Association. Mr Gray was the recipient of the Trustee of the Year Award in 1996 and the Trust of the Year Award in 1996 and 1997.

Wendy Elizabeth McGowan - for services to rural women

Wendy McGowan has been a member of Rural Women New Zealand since 1975 and has held offices with the Kaharoa Branch, Provincial and Inter-Provincial Committees.

In 2005, Wendy became National Councillor for the Region Five area covering Coromandel to Gisborne. She was Vice President for two years, convened the Social Issues Committee and the Land Use Committee. She represented RWNZ on the New Zealand Food Safety Consumer Forum for four years.

She was appointed National President of RWNZ from 2013 to 2016, during which time she led the delegation to the 2014 South Pacific Area Conference and the Associated Country Women of the World Triennial World Conference. She oversaw the implementation of changes to the structure of the governing body and rules of RWNZ and negotiated the sale of Access Homehealth Ltd during her term as President.

Wendy has been an individual member of the ACWW and was part of the RWNZ delegation to the South Pacific Area Conference in Tonga in 2011. She has served on the Rural Community Trust as the RWNZ representative.

Wendy is a member of the Kaimai-Mamaku Catchment Forum and Federated Farmers Rotorua/Taupo Province, and has been President and Chairperson of Federated Farmers Meat and Fibre section for the province.


Kevin Russell Allen - for services to people with brain injuries

Kevin Allen has contributed to the insurance industry and supported charitable organisations, particularly those providing support for people with brain injuries.

He was a Board member of The Brain Injury Association Auckland from 2005 to 2006. Kevin was a Board member of Optionz Brain Rehabilitation and Recovery Trust from 2006 to 2017 and was Chairman for 10 of those years. Optionz and BIAA provide support for people who have suffered a brain injury and their families in the Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga areas.

Kevin was a Board member of the Insurance Brokers Association of New Zealand from 1993 to 2005, during which time he headed the Association’s Education Committee for seven years. He has been recognised with industry awards in this area.

In recent years he has assisted the industry college Professional IQ through the writing of course material, delivering workshops and webinars around New Zealand. He has been a volunteer and Corporate Programme Support of Ronald McDonald House in Auckland.

Kevin has been involved with fundraising for children with cancer and organised trips to Disneyland with Koro Care 4 NZ.

Pembroke Peraniko (Pem) Bird, QSM - for services to education and Māori

Pem Bird received the Queen’s Service Medal for his services to education in 2008 and has since continued to contribute in this area.

In 2010, Pem was appointed to the Te Paepae Motuhake working group that advised on the development of the Māori Language Strategy. Since 2012 he has been a member of the Minister of Education’s National Cross Sector Forum on Raising Achievement. He has served on a number of other Ministry of Education advisory and reference groups, including the Education Funding Review advisory group from 2016.

Pem leads a rural school in Murupara township and over the last few years has grown the multilingual and multicultural curriculum, which has culminated in it being the first indigenous school in New Zealand to open a Confucius Classroom to teach Chinese language and culture.

He has led his school to sustained improvements in academic achievement, with his students performing at or above their national counterparts against the Māori Medium National Standards.

At the national level, Pem is past Chairman of Waka Moemoe, Co-Chairman of Nga Kura a Iwi, past Chairman of Te Ha o Te Ora Creating Safe Communities, a member of the Bay of Plenty Police Iwi Advisory Group, and locally is Chair of several marae organisations.

Te Kei O Te Waka Wilson (Te Kei ) Merito - for services to Māori and conservation

Te Kei Merito has contributed to conservation for more than 30 years, most notably as the inaugural and current Chair of Te Tapatoru-a-Toi, a joint management committee which manages three iconic conservation sites in the Whakatāne area, one being an off-shore pest-free island.

Te Kei was the driving force in developing and implementing the committee’s ‘Kawa me Nga Tikanga – Protocol and Procedure Guidelines’ to assist the committee in fulfilling its role under the Ngati Awa Claims Settlement Act 2005. He played a key role in designing and implementing Te Tapui Tokotoru Conservation Management Plan.

He is a current member of the Environmental Protection Authority and the Environmental Risk Management Authority. He is a member of the Ohiwa Harbour Implementation Forum. He is a Board member for Te Runanga O Ngati Awa and has served periods as Chairman and has been Chairman of Te Komiti Taiao O Ngati Awa.

Te Kei is a Trustee member for Rurima Islands, off-shore islands owned by Ngati Awa and maintained in partnership with the Department of Conservation. He was instrumental in establishing the nationwide Te Pukenga Atawahi Cultural Competency training programme for DOC. Te Kei also established and implemented the Department’s Māori language policy.


Neville Terence Coslett, JP - for services to the community

Neville Coslett has been a Justice of the Peace since 1989 and has been a sitting JP/Judicial Officer at Papakura District Court since 1994.

He has been a community representative for the Ministry of Social Developments’ Benefits Review Committee since December 2000. He has been President and Chair of the Auckland Welsh Club and between 1992 and 1994 he was the coordinator for community sponsorship for Welsh emigrants, advising on and supporting the immigration process for a large number of Welsh emigrants to New Zealand. He has served as Chairperson of the Club’s Board of Trustees.

Neville was the presenter of the fortnightly programme ‘Echoes of Wales’ on Access Community Radio in the 1990s. He was involved with the Auckland Chamber of Commerce from 2000 to 2005. He has been a Council member of the New Zealand Institute of Management and a Committee member of the Association of Factory and Production Managers. Neville has been involved with a number of local rugby clubs in administrative and leadership positions.

Brian William Dobson - for services to the New Zealand Fire Service and rugby

Brian Dobson joined the Matata Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1966 and has been Chief Fire Officer since 1988.

He has held a range of roles with the brigade, including Secretary/Treasurer for 12 years. He attended United Fire Brigade Association and provincial conferences as well as competition events from the 1970s, before starting to compete from 1990 onwards. He has attended numerous callouts, assisted with local rescue efforts, and overseen the brigade’s response to severe slips in Matata in 2005.

Brian was responsible for securing funding for a new van and medical equipment to outfit the brigade’s first response medical unit, established in 2004. He has been President of the Central North Island Sub Association. In 1991 he formed the first Matata Brigade competition team to run UFBA events and reintroduced waterway competition teams in 2008.

He became involved with the Matata Rugby Club in 1967 and was involved with fundraising for and the construction of new club rooms in the late 1970s. He was Treasurer, Club Captain, Senior Team coach, and served as President from 1982 to 1988. Following a downfall in numbers, Brian was asked to stand for President of the Club again and has served in this role since 2009, leading the club to a strong position

Valerie Joan (Val) Thorburn - for services to music education

Val Thorburn has been involved with the development of the Suzuki method for teaching the violin in New Zealand since 1984 and is recognised as a leading senior teacher.

She has been a member and teacher trainer of the Auckland Branch and the New Zealand branch of the Suzuki Institute and has held the office of President in both organisations. She has also served as a member of the Professional Advisory Group of NZSI and the Teacher Trainers Group.

Most recently, Val established the Tauranga Branch of the NZSI. She has been an examiner for the New Zealand Music Examination Board and was an examiner for the Australian Music Examination Board from 1977 to 1983. From 1984 until 2000 she was itinerant violin teacher at a number of Auckland schools.

Val has also been a member of the Auckland Radio Orchestra and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in the early 1960s and again from 1972 to 1983.

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