Locals top New Year’s honours list 

Lydia Bradey has been awarded the title of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to mountaineering.

Three locals made the Queen’s honours list this year; two from Hāwea and one from Wānaka. Their areas of service and expertise speak of the environments in which they live; mountaineering, search and rescue, and community. The Wānaka Sun spoke to each of them about their passions and how they have helped shape the community in which we live. 

Lydia Bradey

Lydia Bradey has been awarded the title of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to mountaineering. Bradey is an internationally acclaimed mountaineer who, over the past 35 years, has been a trailblazer for women climbers and an inspiration to many. 

She grew up in New Zealand and resides in Lake Hāwea with her partner Dean and cat Koshka. As a 17-year-old she summited Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring, going on to make seven first female ascents of the 10 ‘Big Walls’ in Yosemite Valley, California in the 1980s. Each cliff took up to nine days to climb the death-defying slopes. 

Bradey was the first woman to climb Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen, having achieved this amazing feat in 1988, and remains the only New Zealander to do so. She’s since climbed Everest six times, is the only New Zealand woman to have climbed the legendary mountain more than once, and has guided it successfully five times. Collectively, with her partner Dean Staples, they have made 15 ascents of Everest, the highest number of shared ascents of any household in the world.

In 1987 Bradey became the first woman in the Southern Hemisphere to climb one of the world’s 14, 8000m peaks. To date she has made over 30 expeditions to above 6000m, having even hung for a week on the side of a cliff in a nail-biting experience. Bradey holds a BHSc (physiotherapy), and a post-grad certificate in acupuncture, but mainly splits her work schedule between mountain guiding and professional speaking. She uses her heath background to support an interest in occupational health and safety, described as “passionate about maximising the processes involved in big projects such as guiding the ascent of Everest.” 

Bradey is an IFMGA International Mountain & Ski Guide, and in 2011 was appointed Life Member of the New Zealand Alpine Club. Her achievements do more than inspire fellow mountaineers; in 2017 Jan Bolwell was stirred to write the play ‘Taking the High Ground’ about Bradey’s life. In 2017, Bradey was one of three Kiwis to make the first New Zealand ascent of the world’s seventh highest mountain, Dhaulagiri, 8157m, Nepal, and in July 2019 became the first Kiwi woman to climb Broad Peak, 8047m, Pakistan.

Now, having been awarded Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Bradey tells the Wānaka Sun, “I am deeply honoured and grateful to receive the award of ONZM — and such a great Christmas present! I feel it is a motivator to reach out to others more, in order to share the beauty of the mountains, the journey of self discovery they lead you on, and the FUN they bestow!” 

Gary Dickson

Gary Dickson will be made a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order for his service to search and rescue, which exceeds more than 30 years of volunteer efforts in the South Island. Dickson has served as the communications advisor for Wānaka Search and Rescue (SAR) for the past 18 years and as the alpine rescue leader for nine years in his dedication to the role. 

“It’s almost busier than my real job, but someone’s gotta do it,” Dickson admits. Dickson moved down from Mountt Cook to Wānaka at the start of the century after seeing the picturesque benefits for guiding and mountaineering in the area. He’s credited as developing Wānaka SAR from a group of casual volunteers to one of the most professional volunteer alpine cliff rescue teams in New Zealand. 

“When you turned up to a job back then, you turned up with all your own gear, and so a volunteer had to have their own ropes etc, so it was like, oh well, we need to sort this out and someone needed to take it on and I did.” 

Since those days Dickson has gone from strength to strength, including a stint as advisor to Land SAR New Zealand as well as president of the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association. He’s represented New Zealand at the International Commission for Alpine Rescue and the International Federation of Mountain, helping to facilitate New Zealand’s Land SAR membership, and developed qualification standards for the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association. 

He credits the strong team around him that helps make his work possible, “from the committee to the fundraising to the politics through to developing and making sure you have a great team…Wānaka is like this town of over-achievers, so you just take all those over-achievers and put them together and you have awesome results.” There’s no denying the leadership that has helped lead that team however, with Dickson being personally involved in more than 200 rescue operations during his time volunteering. He’s “honoured” by this recent accolade, saying “I put my heart and soul into this thing and it's nice to get the recognition from my peers and from the general community, right up to the prime minister, to a lady on the other side of the world.” With no plans of slowing down anytime soon, Dickson hopes to keep performing and delivering his usual world-class standard. 

This latest honour is a testament to Dickson’s selfless attitude and passion to his craft. He said, “It’s a privilege, I’m humbled by it, and I know some people around me think I’ve done a decent enough job to put me forward for this thing, so thanks very much to them, I hope to do justice to them.” 


John Taylor: 

John Taylor has been awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for his service to the community. Taylor was born and bred in Lake Hāwea, his parents even starting the store that now stands as Lake Hāwea Store and Kitchen, and he’s been instrumental in contributing to growth and success in the area. 

Starting with the Lake Hāwea advisory committee in the mid 80s, Taylor soon got stuck in as a founding member of the Lake Hāwea Volunteer Fire Brigade. “You start to get involved because of the people, you have some lovely people who are very knowledgeable, interesting, community minded. It wasn’t hard to get involved,” Taylor recalled. The brigade is one of his main highlights of his variety of achievements which is shown by his 30-plus years to his beloved station that he eventually left in 2008 after gaining life membership 


Taylor’s been heavily involved in the Hāwea Community Association and the Guardians of Lake Hāwea since the early 90s, even serving as chairman three times for the latter. Under his leadership the Guardians were able to establishment toilet facilities on the western shoreline and a swimming embayment near the boat ramp, allowing swimmers access when the lake levels are low. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he’s literally shaped the Hāwea area with his passion and dedication. 

Taylor’s been a member of Wānaka Search and Rescue since 1982, awarded Life Member in 2017. He’s served on both Hāwea Flat School Committee, Hāwea Domain Board and the Lake Hāwea Community Centre Trustees committee, not to mention he’s a current member of the Hāwea Dip Trust and the committee of the Upper Clutha Tramping Club. 

For the last five years Taylor’s served as chairman of the Hāwea District ANZAC Committee, helping to establish a war memorial for the district and organise ANZAC commemorations. If that wasn’t enough, he also works to maintain reserve land and oversee volunteer health and safety as an active member of the Lake Hāwea Foreshore Working Group. Needless to say, he’s been busy. 

Taylor said, “I couldn’t have done all this without the amazing support of my wife Diana, and my now three adult children, Jasmin, Rhys and Sophie, as well as some amazing mentors along the way.” 

His reaction to the medal was: “Stunned. Very much. Stunned, excited, very humbled. You get a letter like that and you think wow, total surprise.” Taylor and his wife are still yet to break the news to the grandkids, but admits they’ll have to start planning a party soon to celebrate the award with the community. Then it’ll be back to his volunteer efforts, but as far as Taylor’s concerned, “It’s always been a joy working with the particular groups of people that I work with, I’ve been very lucky.” 

Congratulations to Bradey, Dickson and Taylor on their incredible achievements. 


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