Meri Gibson appointed ONZM in the Kings Birthday Honours 2024

Published Mon 03 Jun 2024

Aoraki Dragons is proud that our inaugural President, Meri Gibson was appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in the Kings Birthday Honours 2024.

As Meri's brother commented “for the child of an immigrant family anything is possible. Our parents - had they been alive - would have been incredibly proud”.

Dragonboat paddling has been a big part of Meri's life since late 2006, after her breast cancer diagnosis. Soon after joining Abreast of Life, the sport was handed over to the paddlers in general, by the people who had run Dragon Boating in Christchurch "for seventeen summers". Meri stepped up with a handful from the community to form Aoraki Dragon Boat Association in August 2007. For 10 years she led Aoraki, transitioning it (and NZDBA) from a Festival model to an international sports organisation, with upgrades to IDBF standard boats and paddles, and expanding the training and racing opportunities.

As reported in the Press, Meri has now been recognised for her services to dragon boating and breast cancer awareness. She is the global president of the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission, has held positions with NZDBA, and has been given two lifetime achievement awards. During her leadership of IBCPC, membership had grown 50% to total about 15,000 paddlers across 39 countries.

The IBCPC international dragon boat festival she organised at Karapiro in April 2023 attracted 2,500 breast cancer survivor participants.



Gibson said she felt humbled by the award. She hoped to raise awareness among young women about the risks of breast cancer, because “it’s often seen as an older woman’s disease”. 

Meri takes the mantra that “exercise is medicine” on IBCPC outreach clinics around the globe. Meanwhile she is proud that New Zealand has the highest number of breast cancer paddler teams per capita - it shows that what we are doing is important.

Finally the light has been shown on Dragonboat paddling as a great sport - not just for breast cancer survivors, but for anyone and everyone. Meri pledges to use the award to further grow the Sport and to continue to create the awareness of an active and healthy life post a diagnosis of breast cancer.