Aaron Fleming, a prominent figure in New Zealand’s sports and community sectors, has been appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours list. Recognised for his remarkable contributions to triathlon and his extensive community work, Fleming’s journey is a testament to resilience, dedication, and a deep commitment to making a difference.

In 2000, Fleming faced a life-altering challenge when he underwent major lung surgery. Doctors advised him that he would never be able to physically exert himself again. Defying these grim predictions, Fleming completed his first Ironman triathlon in 2006 at Ironman New Zealand. Since then, he has participated in 17 Ironman triathlons, including 12 times at Ironman New Zealand. In a recent article with Otago Daily Times, Fleming says Ironman’s aided his mental as well as physical health – “this has made me the most resilient, strong person because there’s many a tough day out there training”

Driven by a personal goal to complete an Ironman on every continent that hosts the event, Fleming has already conquered races in the USA, Australia, Malaysia, England, and South Africa. He is now setting his sights on Ironman Brazil in 2025 to complete this extraordinary quest. Additionally, Fleming has earned a coveted Legacy spot to compete in the Ironman World Championships in Kona in 2026.

Fleming’s achievements in triathlon have also served a greater purpose. Through his athletic endeavors, he has raised over $40,000 for various charities, with a significant portion benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Association. His inspirational journey is documented in his book “Purpose,” which has motivated countless individuals to pursue their dreams and engage in triathlon. Profits from the book have been donated to charity, further amplifying his impact.

In 2008, Fleming served as New Zealand’s Ambassador for the Beijing Olympics and had the honor of being New Zealand’s torchbearer. His community service extends beyond sport; he played a pivotal role in establishing Hamilton’s food rescue service, which has diverted 380,000 kilograms of food from landfill, equating to over a million meals for those in need over the past decade. Additionally, he helped establish Trash to Fashion, a waste minimization wearable arts contest, and has been an ambassador for initiatives promoting inclusivity in sports and mental health support for young New Zealanders.

Fleming’s dedication to service has earned him multiple accolades, including twice being named a recipient of the Local Hero Award through the New Zealander of the Year Award and being a finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year.

Professionally, Fleming serves as a Director at the Department of Conservation, where he is responsible for about 12% of New Zealand’s land area, including Mount Aspiring, Fiordland, and Rakiura National Parks, and the subantarctic islands. His leadership and commitment to conservation were recognized in 2017 when he received the Emerging Leader Award from the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

Aaron Fleming’s induction into the New Zealand Order of Merit is a testament to his extraordinary resilience, his significant contributions to triathlon, and his unwavering commitment to community service. His story continues to inspire countless individuals, demonstrating that with determination and a sense of purpose, even the greatest of obstacles can be overcome.

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