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Dedication to making positive change

Peter McNeur was “flabbergasted to learn that someone had put my name forward” for a King’s Birthday Honour, let alone to be receiving the King’s Service Medal for services to education and the community.

“Although it’s nice to receive recognition, it’s a funny feeling,” he said. “You don’t expect rewards for this kind of work; it’s certainly not why you do it!”

He is also quick to pay tribute to “the many wonderful people” who have worked with him on various initiatives, including “Bob Francis, who roped me into more than a few of them”.

A key member of the national executive of the Rural Education and Activities Programme [REAP] and director of REAP Wairarapa from 1992 to 2023, which included organising REAP national conferences in Wellington every two years, McNeur “worked in rural communities for much of my life, and I saw REAP as a wonderful opportunity to help people develop the skills they need to manage their own lives”.

He also instigated and supported numerous initiatives on the East Side of Masterton – again animated by the desire “to support members of the community to make positive changes for themselves” – including the re-establishment of the Early Childhood Centre as Ko Te Aroha Centre, which is “still running very successfully as a trust”.

In 2011, McNeur initiated the Computers in Homes digital literacy project, helping families with school-aged children across Wairarapa gain access to, and training with, digital technologies.

“It was simply a matter of responding to a need – 450 families, mostly on the East Side, ended up receiving the computer they’d trained on,” he said.

In much the same way, during the Covid-19 pandemic McNeur ensured “a huge number of Chromebooks” were purchased and gifted to local households that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to operate effectively during lockdowns, collaborated on a project from 2000 to 2010 to extend broadband access to rural areas, and was a founding trustee and secretary of the Digital Seniors Community Board that helps Wairarapa seniors engage with technology.

A key member of the team that initiated the White Ribbon movement in Wairarapa that would go on to become a nationwide anti-violence campaign, McNeur more recently imported the Men’s Shed phenomenon from Australia, helping establish the Wairarapa Men’s Shed and writing its inaugural constitution in the process.

McNeur is also active with the Wairarapa Workforce Development Trust, Wairarapa Vintage Aviation Hub Community Trust, and served as president of the Wairarapa Photography Club, which he helped transform into an organisation that assists members in learning about the art that “is one of my great loves”.

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