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New Zealand Order of Merit
Star of the order
Awarded by Royal Standard of New Zealand.svg The Queen of New Zealand
Country  New Zealand
Type Order
Awarded for Meritorious service to the Crown and the nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions, or other merits
Motto For Merit
Established 30 May 1996
Last awarded 2013 New Year Honours
Next (higher) Order of New Zealand
Next (lower) Queen's Service Order
New Zealand Order of Merit ribbon.png
Ribbon of the New Zealand Order of Merit

The New Zealand Order of Merit is an order of chivalry established on 30 May 1996 by Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, "for those persons who in any field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions or other merits",[1] to recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity.

The order is currently awarded in five grades:

  • Knight or Dame Grand Companion (GNZM)
  • Knight or Dame Companion (KNZM or DNZM)
  • Companion (CNZM)
  • Officer (ONZM)
  • Member (MNZM)

Prior to 1996 New Zealanders received appointments to various British orders, such as the Order of the Bath, the Order of St Michael and St George, the Order of the British Empire, and the Order of the Companions of Honour, as well as the distinction of Knight Bachelor.[2] The change came about after the Prime Minister's Honours Advisory Committee (1995) was created "to consider and present options and suggestions on the structure of a New Zealand Royal Honours System in New Zealand, which is designed to recognise meritorious service, gallantry and bravery and long service".[3]

Award quotas

The number of Knights and Dames Grand Companion (and Principal Companions) is limited to 30 living people. Additionally, new appointments are limited to 15 Knight Companions, 40 Companions, 80 Officers and 140 Members per year.[4] As well as the five grades, there are three types of membership. Ordinary membership is limited to citizens of New Zealand or a Commonwealth realm. "Additional" members, appointed on special occasions, are not counted in the numerical limits. People who are not citizens of a Commonwealth realm are given "Honorary" membership; if they subsequently adopt citizenship of a Commonwealth realm they are eligible for Additional membership.[5]

Insignia and other distinctions

Rear Admiral David Ledson, ONZM, RNZN, wearing the badge for Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

  • The Collar, worn only by the Sovereign and Chancellor, comprises "links of the central medallion of the badge" and "S"-shaped Koru, with the Coat of Arms of New Zealand in centre. Hanging from the Coat of Arms is the badge of the Order.
  • The Star is an eight-pointed star with each arm bearing a representation of a fern frond, with the Order's badge superimposed in the centre. Grand Companions wear a gold star and Knight Companions wear a silver star.
  • The Badge for the three highest classes is a gold and white enamel cross with curved edges bearing at its centre the coat of arms of New Zealand within a green enamel ring bearing the motto For Merit Tohu Hiranga, topped by a royal crown. The badge for Officers and Members is similar, but in silver-gilt and silver respectively. Grand Companions wear the badge on a sash over the right shoulder; Knight Companions and Companions wear the badge on a neck ribbon (men) or a bow on the left shoulder (women). Officers and Members wear the badge from a ribbon on the left lapel (men) or a bow on the left shoulder (women).
  • The ribbon and sash are plain red ochre.

Knight/Dames Grand Companion and Knight/Dames Companion are entitled to use the style Sir for males and Dame for females.

The order's statutes grant heraldic privileges to members of the first and second level, who are entitled to have the Order's circlet ("a green circle, edged gold, and inscribed with the Motto of the Order in gold") surrounding their shield. Grand Companions are also entitled to heraldic supporters. The Chancellor is entitled to supporters and a representation of the Collar of the Order around his/her shield.[6]

Grand Companions and office holders

  • Sovereign: The Queen[7]
  • Chancellor and Principal Knight Grand Companion: The Governor-General[8]
  • Knights and Dames Grand Companion:
    • The Rt. Hon. Sir William Birch GNZM (1999)
    • The Rt. Hon. Dame Sian Elias GNZM PC QC (1999)
    • Sir Lloyd Geering ONZ GNZM CBE (2000)
    • Sir Patrick Goodman GNZM  CBE (2002)
    • Sir Paul Callaghan GNZM FRS FRSNZ (2005)
    • Dame Malvina Major ONZ GNZM DBE (2007)
    • Sir Ngatata Love GNZM QSO JP (2008)
    • Sir Ray Avery GNZM (2010)
  • Additional Members:
    • The Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Hardie Boys GNZM GCMG QSO KStJ (1996)
    • The Rt. Hon. Sir Anand Satyanand GNZM QSO KStJ (2006)
    • The Rt. Hon. Lt. Gen. Sir Jerry Mateparae GNZM QSO KStJ (2011) (Higher precedence as Chancellor and Principal Knight Grand Companion while Governor-General)
  • Officials:

The two positions of Secretary and Registrar, and Herald were created in the Statutes of the Order[9] with all appointments published in the New Zealand Gazette.

    • Secretary and Registrar: Rebecca Kitteridge (Clerk of the Executive Council of New Zealand)
    • Herald: Philip O'Shea CNZM CVO[10]

Principal and Distinguished Companions

This list is of members of the first (Principal Companion) and second (Distinguished Companion) of the order who did not convert their appointment to a Knighthood (or Damehood).

  • Principal companions:
    • Hon. Dame Silvia Cartwright PCNZM DBE QSO DStJ (2001)[11] (Additional Member)
    • The Rt. Hon. Sir Ivor Richardson PCNZM  (2002)[11]
  • Distinguished Companions:
    • Joy Cowley DCNZM OBE
    • Patricia Grace DCNZM QSO
    • Witi Ihimaera-Smiler DCNZM QSM
    • The Rt. Rev. Penny Jamieson DCNZM
    • Sam Neill DCNZM OBE (2009)[12]
    • Sr Pauline O'Regan DCNZM CBE
    • Vincent O'Sullivan DCNZM
    • Ranginui Walker DCNZM
    • The Hon. Margaret Wilson DCNZM


A change to non-titular honours was a recommendation contained within the original report of the 1995 honours committee (The New Zealand Royal Honours System: The Report of the Prime Minister’s Honours Advisory Committee) which prompted the creation of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Titular honours were incorporated into the new system before its implementation in 1996 after the National Party caucus and public debate were split as to whether titles should be retained.[13]

There has long been debate in New Zealand regarding the appropriateness of titles. Some feel it is no longer appropriate as New Zealand has not been a colony since 1907, and to these people titles are out of step with present-day New Zealand. Others feel that titles carry both domestic and international recognition, and that awarded on the basis of merit they remain an appropriate recognition of excellence.

In April 2000 the new Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark announced that knighthoods and damehoods were abolished, and the order's statutes were amended accordingly. Between 2000 and 2009, the two highest awards were called Principal Companion (PCNZM) and Distinguished Companion (DCNZM), and recipients did not receive the title "Sir" or "Dame".[14][15] Their appointment was recognised solely by the use of post-nominal letters, as for the lower levels of the order.

A National Business Review[16] poll in February 2000 revealed that 54% of New Zealanders thought the titles should be scrapped. The Labour Government's April 2000 changes were criticised by opposition parties, with Richard Prebble of the ACT New Zealand party deriding the PCNZM's initials as standing for "a Politically Correct New Zealand that used to be a Monarchy".

The issue of titular honours would appear whenever honours were mentioned. In the lead up to the 2005 general election, Leader of the Opposition Don Brash suggested that should a National-led government be elected, he would reverse Labour's changes and re-introduce knighthoods.[17]

In 2009, Prime Minister John Key restored the honours to their pre-April 2000 state. Principal Companions and Distinguished Companions (85 people in total) were given the option to convert their awards into Knighthoods or Damehoods.[18] The restoration was welcomed by the Monarchy New Zealand.[19] The option has been taken up by 72 of those affected, including rugby great Colin Meads.[20] Former Labour MP Margaret Shields was one of those who accepted a Damehood, despite receiving a letter from former Prime Minister Helen Clark "setting out why Labour had abolished the titles and saying she hoped she would not accept one".[21] Clark's senior deputy, Michael Cullen, also accepted a knighthood.

See also


  1. "New Zealand Royal Honours". Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 21 August 2013. 
  2. Prime Minister's Office (2 May 1996). "The New Zealand Order of Merit". New Zealand Executive Government News Release Archive. Retrieved 2006-02-22. 
  3. The Review of the New Zealand Royal Honours System originally published (1997) 75 New Zealand Numismatic Journal, Proceedings of the Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand 17–21
  4. Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit (SR 1996/205), reg 9
  5. Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit (SR 1996/205), regs (6)-(11)
  6. Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit (SR 1996/205), reg 50
  7. Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit (SR 1996/205), reg 4
  8. reg 5 (SR 1996/205) Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit
  9. Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit (SR 1996/205), reg 51
  10. "The New Zealand Order of Merit" (26 September 1996) 130 New Zealand Gazette 3179 at 3198.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Despite not converting their PCNZM the previous honour in the British honours system grants use of the appellations "Dame" and "Sir"
  12. "Sir 'just far too grand' for Neill". Otago Daily Times. 1 Aug 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  13. The Review of the New Zealand Royal Honours System originally published (1997) 75 New Zealand Numismatic Journal, Proceedings of the Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand 17–21.
  14. Prime Minister's Office (10 April 2000). "Titles discontinued". New Zealand Defence Force. Retrieved 2006-06-15. 
  15. "Additional Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit (NZ Regulation SR 2000/84)" (TXT). Knowledge Basket. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  16. National Business Review 24 March 2000
  17. Milne, Jonathan; Spratt, Amanda (5 September 2005). "Brash plans to bring back knighthoods". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2006-06-15. 
  18. Prime Minister's Office (8 March 2009). "Titular Honours to be reinstated". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  19. "Press Release – Knighthoods restored". Monarchist League of New Zealand. 15 March 2009. Archived from the original on 7 August 2009. 
  20. "Colin 'Pinetree' Meads to take knighthood". NZPA. 12 May 2009. 
  21. Young, Audrey (14 Aug 2009). "Helen Clark Loses: Ex-Labour MP takes Title". New Zealand Herald. 

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