New Zealand Queen’s Birthday Awards

June 14, 2010 by Miriam Bell
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Modesty and diffidence characterise the response of one of New Zealand’s newest knights to the honour he was awarded in the country’s recent Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Sir David Levene (80), who is now a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM), told news media that, while he is humbled by his knighthood, he will struggle with the title because he’s used to just being called by his first name.

“Thousands of people have worked with me over the years and helped with anything I may have done and helped to put me in a position where I’m able to do things,” he says.

An active member of the Auckland Jewish community, Sir David received his knighthood for his many years of service to business and to the community.

After starting his career in the family paint and wallpaper business in 1947, he went on to develop Levene & Co into a major player in the New Zealand retail and manufacturing sector. By the time Sir David sold the company, in 1994, it consisted of 52 retail stores and a number of paint and wallpaper manufacturing companies.

Since 1994, Sir David has continued to work in business as director of Quadrant Properties, and has retained active interests in horticulture, technology and film-making.

He says “of course, you need to make a profit in a business”, but that through out his business career his most important consideration has been “security for my people and my family”.

Sir David’s philanthropic foundation, the David Levene Charitable Trust, is a generous donor to medical research and charities, particularly Outward Bound and the Parkinsons Society. He has also established a scholarship fund at Massey University and sponsors the Auckland University Mentoring and Tutoring Education Scheme.

Another prominent member of the Auckland Jewish community to feature in the Queen’s Birthday Honours was property magnate Michael Friedlander, who was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the community.

Notoriously private, Friedlander is the governing director of the Samson Corporation Ltd and a member of the New Zealand Business Roundtable. He is involved in a large range of philanthropic activities, including acting as a patron of the Auckland Theatre Company and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

His charitable foundation, the Friedlander Foundation, provides a number of scholarships, notably in biomedical science. He and his sons also recently established the Harriet Friedlander Scholarship Trust, in commemoration of his late wife, which funds New York residencies for New Zealand artists.

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