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Aviation trailblazer’s gong

Rona Fraser at Government House with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Delayed by the covid-19 lockdown and a later than planned general election, Rhonda [Rona] Renyl Nga-Tiawa Fraser was excited to finally be driven to Government House in Wellington on Thursday in in her new Mustang.

A founder of the New Zealand Association of Women in Aviation in 1960, Fraser received her New Zealand Order of Merit on Thursday morning.

Her driver and friend Jennifer Armstrong said Fraser enjoyed the dainty food included in the high tea and talking with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.

After the ceremony, the two Greytown women had a private conversation.

“I was delighted to meet Rona and astounded to hear about her extraordinary life,” Dame Patsy said.

“What a trailblazer she has been. She is a remarkable woman who richly deserves her New Zealand Royal Honour.”

Fraser, 93, was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her decades of services to women and aviation.

NZAWA is credited for increasing the participation of women in aviation through providing mentoring, information and scholarships to women and girls throughout New Zealand.

She was its patroness for 17 years and is a member of the ‘Ninety-Nines’, an international organisation for female pilots.

Fraser was the first woman to fly solo from the Wellington Aero Club. In 1952, she learnt to fly in a Tiger Moth.

In 1974, she started a riding school on her property and later established the Wellington Area Competitive Trail Riding Club, which still runs.

In a couple of weeks, Fraser has organised to be taken for a flight in a Tiger Moth from the Hood Aerodrome in Masterton.

Seven Wairarapa people were to receive medals this week.

Scilla Askew, now living in Featherston received her Order of New Zealand Merit yesterday afternoon.

Askew is an arts administrator, musician, and editor.

From 1998 to 2010 she was executive director of the Sounz Centre for New Zealand Music, which promotes music by New Zealand composers nationally and internationally.

She has been a board member of many organisations, including Stroma New Music Trust and the Lilburn Residence Trust.

She has published books celebrating composers Jack Body and Douglas Lilburn.

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