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Rex gets King’s Birthday honour



Former Ōtaki College principal and stalwart of the Rāhui Rugby Club Rex Kerr has been honoured in the King’s Birthday awards with an MNZM.

Rex and Elizabeth Kerr on the occasion of Rex’s inauguration into the XŌtaki College Alumni Hall of Fame, in December 2023.  Photo Ōtaki Today

The announcement by the Deparment of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) on King’s Birthday Monday, June 3, said Rex was to be a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) “for services to the community and rugby”.

Rex moved to the Summerset on the Coast retirement village in Paraparaumu last year after living in Ōtaki for nearly 48 years. He says the official letter he received was unexpected.

“I did those things because I enjoyed them and being able to contribute to the community,” he says.

Rex’s contribution to education and the Ōtaki community has spanned 60 years, beginning in 1963 when he  was a teacher at Colenso High School and then as deputy principal of Wairoa College. Late in 1975, he and wife Elizabeth arrived at Ōtaki, and  Rex began his 21 years as principal of Ōtaki College the following year. He took over from another long-time principal, John Saunders.

Rex was active in the sports of the college, particularly with rugby, coaching various teams including the First XV. He oversaw huge growth at the college – at one time, in 1985, it had 680 students (it now has about 450).

He  introduced te reo Māori into the college curriculum and started a horticulture course before retiring in 1997.

Even after retirement Rex was a ministerial representative on Te Mana Whakahaere, the governing body of Te Wānanga of Raukawa; a member of the Greater Wellington Response Forum; and on the Ōtaki Health and Wellbeing Advisory Group. He was inaugurated into the XŌtaki College Alumni Hall of Fame in 2023, one of only six recipients of the award that began in 2018.

Rex authored five books between 2001 and 2016 celebrating the history of the Ōtaki area. They included books  about the Ōtaki railway station, the Ōtaki River, the RSA, the Ōtaki Scholar and Ōtaki’s prominent early citizens. He also contributed several historical articles for Ōtaki Today and the Ōtaki Historical Journal.

Rex held many prominent roles with the New Zealand Secondary Schools Rugby Union, including as president, chair, secretary and New Zealand team manager between 1978 and 2013. He also served as chair of the Hurricanes Youth Council between 2000 and 2012, and was an executive board member representing the Horowhenua-Kapiti Rugby Football Union for 11 years until retirement in 2023.

He is a life member of the Horowhenua-Kāpiti Rugby Football Union, the Hurricanes Youth Rugby Council, the Manawatū Secondary Schools Athletics Association, and the New Zealand Secondary Schools Rugby Union.

Rex, however, considers his proudest association was with Rāhui rugby, whose home ground at Ōtaki Domain was only a stone’s throw from the house and he and Elizabeth occupied in Knights Grove.  He was president of the Rāhui Football and Sports Association for 13 years from 2002, and has been patron since 2014. The club says put in countless hours for the club and had one of the highest rates of attendance at training sessions, including players.

Rex has also been a trustee of the Ōtaki Museum, a member of the Ōtaki Historical Society (both now merged to create Ōtaki Heritage), and was a member of Ōtaki Rotary since arriving in Ōtaki. He formed the Tuesday Group (now the Ōtaki Community Forum) that meets on the first Tuesday of the month.




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Rex gets King’s Birthday honour


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