BURTON, Roger Murray
Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Gazetted 2 April 2011
For services to the community. Mr Burton is the Principal of Elim Christian College in Manukau, and it was he who guided the College through the aftermath of the tragic deaths of a teacher and six students during a canyoning trip in the Mangatepopo Gorge on 15 April 2008.
He has received considerable public acclamation for his management and leadership of the College and his local community in the aftermath of the tragedy, and in particular for his caring for the students and parents immediately involved. He waited at the College after he was notified of the incident for news from the search and rescue effort and comforted key staff members and parents, who were also at the College. He conducted the press conference on his own because of a desire to communicate the facts of the tragedy clearly, and openly. While this may have been contrary to school policy, it was an inspired decision, later commended because it prevented an immediate ‘media frenzy’ and stopped false facts of the incident being reported. In his own words; “There was so much more to be gained by being open than by being closed off. It enabled the school really to cope with the whole situation too.” He personally attended all the funerals and the public memorial service; and was noted for the continuous support he gave to all those affected, especially the families. He displayed an openness and forgiveness that set a precedent by positively influencing the way others dealt with the tragedy and thus helped to eliminate many of the negative outcomes from the incident. In August 2008 Mr Burton received the New Zealand Principals’ Federation’s Service with Distinction Award and was named New Zealander of the Year for 2008 by North and South magazine. His skill in managing the aftermath of this tragedy, and the pastoral care he gave to everyone affected, was an example to all.
Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)