Community & Environment

Hamilton Zoo founder given royal tribute

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Murray Powell and Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate

A Hamiltonian’s passion for the majesty of the animal kingdom has been recognised with a Queen’s Birthday Honour.

Murray Powell, co-founder of Hamilton Zoo with his late wife Gloria, has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (NZOM) for services to wildlife conservation and the deer industry.

He was presented the NZOM medal today (31 July 2020) by Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate at a ceremony at Hamilton City Council’s Reception Lounge.

Mr and Mrs Powell established the Hilldale Game Farm in 1966, which later became Hilldale Zoo and Wildlife Park and then Hamilton Zoo, and put significant investment towards its development over many years.

Murray Powell and his whanau

Murray Powell and his friends and family

In 1976 Mr and Mrs Powell gifted the zoo’s building, equipment and animals to the Council, and the Hilldale Zoological Trust was established to manage its operation.

Hamilton Zoo is now one of the city’s leading attractions with more than 140,000 visitors a year, as well as running successful breeding programmes and conservation and research projects for both nationally and internationally endangered species.

Mr Powell also established the Waikato Deer Farmers’ Association and made major contributions toward the national association.

His knowledge about caring for birds was utilised by the New Zealand Wildlife Service for projects such as rearing brown teal, capturing kokako for breeding at Mount Bruce, and kiwi rescue in Northland.

Mayor Southgate paid tribute to Mr Powell’s special contribution to Hamilton.

“New Zealand honours are not offered easily,” she said. “They are the highest form of recognition and they are bestowed only on those who have served and achieved.

“Murray, you have earned a unique place in the heart of this city and in the heart of all Hamiltonians. We want to thank you most sincerely for everything you have done. Your achievements are quite extraordinary and have simply made Hamilton a much better place. You leave a long-lasting legacy that thousands of Hamiltonians today and into the future will enjoy.”

More than 70 of Mr Powell’s family and friends attended the ceremony, and his daughter, Sharon, watched via livestream from Adelaide.

“On behalf of myself and my dear wife, who can’t be here today, I accept this honour,” he said. “I want to pass it on to all you people because nothing would have been done without you.”

Councillor Margaret Forsyth was also made an ONZM earlier this week for services to netball and the community.

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