New Zealand Order of Merit

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New Zealand Order of Merit
New Zealand Order of Merit badge WP.svg
Badge of the Order
Awarded by Royal Standard of New Zealand.svg The Queen of New Zealand
Type National Order
Motto For Merit - Tohu Hiranga
Eligibility All living New Zealand citizens
Awarded for Meritorious service to the Crown and the nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions, or other merits
Status Currently constituted
Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II
Chancellor Sir Jerry Mateparae
Grades (w/ post-nominals)

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

Established 30 May 1996
Last induction 2015 New Year Honours
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[edit]

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

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[edit]

Grand Cross's breast star

  • 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[edit]

Name Post-Nominals Known for Year Appointed
The Rt. Hon. Sir William Birch GNZM JP 38th Minister of Finance 1999
The Rt. Hon. Dame Sian Elias GNZM QC 12th Chief Justice of New Zealand 1999
Prof. Sir Lloyd Geering ONZ GNZM CBE Theological Scholar 2000
Sir Patrick Goodman GNZM CBE Businessman, Arts Patron & Philanthropist 2002
Prof. Sir Paul Callaghan GNZM FRS FRSNZ Physics Scholar 2005
Dame Malvina Major ONZ GNZM DBE Opera Singer 2007
Prof. Sir Ngatata Love GNZM QSO JP Māori Leader 2008
Prof. Sir Ray Avery GNZM Pharmaceutical Scientist 2010
Prof. Sir Murray Brennan GNZM Medicine 2015
  • Officials:

Two positions, (Secretary & Registrar and Herald) were created in the Statutes of the Order with all appointments published in the New Zealand Gazette.[10]

Principal and Distinguished Companions[edit]

This list is of members of the first grade Principal Companion (PCNZM) and second grade Distinguished Companion (DCNZM) levels of the order who choose not to convert their appointment to a Knight or Dame Grand Companion or Knight or Dame Companion and not to accept the appellation of "Sir" or "Dame".

  • Principal Companions:


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.[3]

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.[citation needed]

In April 2000 the then new Labour Prime Minister, Helen Clark, announced that knighthoods and damehoods had been abolished and the order's statutes amended. From 2000 to 2009, the two highest levels of the Order were Principal Companion (PCNZM) and Distinguished Companion (DCNZM), without the appellation of "Sir" or "Dame"; appointment to all levels of the Order were recognised solely by the use of post-nominal letters.[15][16]

A National Business Review[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] The restoration was welcomed by Monarchy New Zealand.[20] The option has been taken up by 72 of those affected, including rugby great Colin Meads.[21] 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".[22] Clark's senior deputy, Michael Cullen, also accepted a knighthood.

See also[edit]


  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. ^ a b 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. ^ Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit (SR 1996/205), reg 5
  9. ^ Sir Jerry Mateparae held higher precedence as Chancellor and Principal Knight Grand Companion while Governor-General.
  10. ^ Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit, SR 1996/205, reg 51)
  11. ^ ""The Queen's Service Order / The Order of New Zealand / The New Zealand Order of Merit" (28 April 2014) 44 New Zealand Gazette 1263 at 1287.
  12. ^ "The New Zealand Order of Merit" (26 September 1996) 130 New Zealand Gazette 3179 at 3198.
  13. ^ Despite not converting their PCNZM, the previous honour in the British honours system grants use of the appellations "Dame" and "Sir"
  14. ^ "Sir 'just far too grand' for Neill". Otago Daily Times. 1 Aug 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  15. ^ "Additional Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit" (TXT). (NZ Regulation SR 2000/84). Knowledge Basket. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
    Additional Statutes of the New Zealand Order of Merit (SR 2000/84)
  16. ^ Prime Minister's Office (10 April 2000). "Titles discontinued". New Zealand Defence Force. Retrieved 2006-06-15. 
  17. ^ National Business Review 24 March 2000
  18. ^ Milne, Jonathan; Spratt, Amanda (5 September 2005). "Brash plans to bring back knighthoods". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2006-06-15. 
  19. ^ Prime Minister's Office (8 March 2009). "Titular Honours to be reinstated". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  20. ^ "Press Release – Knighthoods restored". Monarchist League of New Zealand. 15 March 2009. Archived from the original on 7 August 2009. 
  21. ^ "Colin 'Pinetree' Meads to take knighthood". NZPA. 12 May 2009. 
  22. ^ Young, Audrey (14 Aug 2009). "Helen Clark Loses: Ex-Labour MP takes Title". New Zealand Herald. 

External links[edit]