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The New Zealand Order of Merit
Investiture Ceremony

Government House, Auckland
16 August 2005

On Tuesday, 16 August 2005, Michael Hurst was one of 24 recipients of Queen's Birthday Honours to be officially invested into the New Zealand Order of Merit. The morning event took place at Government House Auckland in a high-ceilinged solarium with a roof shape and structure reminiscent of a waka (Maori canoe). 

The other honorees included business people, academics, community activists, military personnel, sports leaders, and a young man who had risked his life to save a child from drowning. They had been selected for recognition because of their extraordinary contributions to their respective fields, or for service to the community.  The ceremony required each to stand while a citation of his or her achievements was read, then proceed to the small raised dais at the front to receive their medal and the personal congratulations of Dame Silvia Cartwright, Governor-General of New Zealand.  As they returned to their seats, they received the applause of the assembled family and friends.

The event concluded with the singing of the New Zealand national anthem, in Maori and then English; Jennifer's and Michael's strong, proud voices could be clearly heard.

After the formal ceremony, Dame Silvia shook hands with Jack and Cameron--the only children in attendance--and chatted with Michael and Jennifer.  Unfortunately, the Hurst/Ward-Lealand family could linger only briefly because the boys needed to get back to school, and Michael and Jennifer to afternoon rehearsal for their next play, The Goat.  Little time for celebration when there's more extraordinary work to be done!

An article in the next day's Dominion Post talked about Michael's state of mind on the day:  "Years of stage experience did little to quell Michael Hurst's nerves as he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit yesterday. 'I was quite nervous.  This is such an honour,' the actor and director said." 

As an interesting side note, Caine Spick, the young hero who saved the child from drowning, revealed in the same article that "one of the highlights yesterday was meeting Mr. Hurst.  'I looked at him for a second and then put it together,' said the teenager and self-confessed Hercules fan."

Below the pictures there is a message from Michael to everyone who has supported him over the years.

The awardees take their seats in the front row;
Michael at center (in suit).


Michael stands while his citation is read:

"Mr. Michael Eric Hurst of Grey Lynn for services to film and the theatre.

Since beginning his theatrical career thirty years ago, Mr. Hurst has been an actor, director, producer, singer, writer, voice actor, fight choreographer, celebrity debater, and master of ceremonies.  He has appeared on film, television, radio, theatre, and live performance with over 100 roles to his credit.  He has also directed some forty plays, including Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, and Jesus Christ Superstar.  He is especially well known for his work on Hercules and Xena where his contribution was recognized by a Best Supporting Television Actor Award in 1997.  He has taught at Performing Arts School, the Public Works Performing Arts Centre, New Zealand Drama School, University of Auckland, and School of Performing and Screen Arts.  Mr. Hurst contributes greatly to New Zealand charities and causes including libraries, cerebral palsy, child cancer, and Youthline."

Dame Silvia Cartwright, Governor-General of New
Zealand, congratulates Michael on his achievements.


She then pins the medal of the ONZM onto his lapel.

Michael and Jennifer chat with
Dame Silvia after the ceremony.


Jennifer, Cameron, Michael, and Jack


Cameron takes daddy's medal in hand so
everyone can get a better look.


(with thanks to Beth Sundberg for the pics)


Michael with Cameron and Jack

On the occasion of his investiture as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Michael Hurst sends this thoughtful note of thanks to all of his supporters:
I was very moved to find out that I had been recommended for this honour. I had no idea that it was imminent and to realize that others had thought my contribution to the art form worthy of such recognition was both humbling and uplifting.

I have always thought that I work in this industry not because I want to, but because I have to. I am compelled to communicate in this way, especially in theatre, and the personal (I guess spiritual) reward for me is immense. Being awarded the ONZM is a wonderful acknowledgement of the fact that the arts are a health issue for any community, because that is what I  believe and how I choose to work at what I do.

I owe much to, and am grateful for, the people out there who support my work, and have supported it over the years. Without this commitment from audiences on both a communal and personal level, I couldn't do what I do. I am very fortunate to be able to be a conduit for whatever messages need to be transmitted and, while I acknowledge that I work hard, I thank my stars that the universe has yielded the conditions that have allowed me to be what I am.

The ONZM is a great honour of which I am very proud. Thank you.


About the New Zealand Order of Merit

According to the Honours website, the Order is "for those persons who in any field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions or other merits."  The Order is an Order of Chivalry which, in 1996, replaced the appointment of New Zealand citizens to British Orders of Chivalry.  A complete list of Queen's Birthday Honours recipients for 2005 can be found here.  The list also appears in the New Zealand Herald where Michael is also briefly mentioned in one of the articles about the honorees.

There are five levels within the Order of Merit, with the great majority of awards being made at the lowest level, 'Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit'.  'Officer' is the next level up, followed by 'Companions', 'Distinguished Companions', and 'Principal Companions'.  Michael will be entitled to wear, on appropriate occasions, the insignia designating his appointment, and to use the initials ONZM after his name.

Since these appointments are made to people from all walks of life, only a small number of performers have been so honoured over the years.  But even a quick look at Michael's curriculum vitae will leave little doubt as to what the Honours committee saw that impressed them--truly an incredible career.

INTERVIEW:  Michael has done a short interview for MichaelHurstNow.  Click here to read it, beginning with question #1:  What does it mean to you to have been made an Officer of the New Zealand order of Merit? . . .


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