Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick has been made a companion of the Queen’s Service Order in the 2021 New Year’s honours.
Chadwick has received the honour for services to local government and as an MP.
She was the MP for Rotorua from 1999 to 2008 and served as Minister of Conservation, Women’s Affairs and as Associate Minister of Health.
Speaking to Local Democracy Reporting, she says the honour is unexpected.
It's hard not being able to share the experience with her late husband John, but she says they would have joked over their competition with one another.
John Chadwick, a lawyer, became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2016. He died suddenly in 2017.
“He would have immediately looked to see if it was a higher bar than his, and he’d have been gazumped.”
Steve is well known nationally for her work banning smoking in all workplaces including offices, restaurants and schools.
“People in the queues in the supermarket said ‘that’s that woman that’s trying to stop you smoking’.”
She received death threats for that work, she says.
After a long day debating the bill in parliament, Chadwick was ready to quit, but a conversation with her son turned it around.
“He said ‘you look terrible’ and I said ... ‘It’s horrible, there’s layer upon layer of hate’.
“He said ‘Mum, it’s the best thing you’ve done. I want to go into bars and cafes and I don’t want to be in a smoke-filled environment’.
“I went, ‘bring it on’.
“That’s taught me how to toughen up if you’re doing the right thing.”
A midwife before she entered politics, Chadwick says she's also proud of lesser-known achievements, such as HPV vaccines to prevent cervical cancer and newborn hearing screening.
A self-described social democrat, Chadwick says she doesn’t care if people called her a “leftie”.
“I cared about inequality and I cared about social investment and justice and human rights. You can’t ever take that away from me.”
She has also been acknowledged for her work in local government, notably in her role establishing Rotorua Lakes Council’s partnership with Te Tatau o Te Arawa.
Chadwick says the honour is recognition of the battles she has been through and it “means a lot”.
She still planns on continuing to advocate for change after her retirement from local politics at the end of the term.
“I will do things [where] I see the need and I will go and roll my sleeves up ... I’ve got incredible energy.”
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