“The primary emphasis in determining the award of honours should be on service to the community or nation, and on merit and achievement, in whatever field, going beyond the normal requirements of duty or office.”
(Report of the Prime Minister's Honours Advisory Committee, September 1995)
How the Honours system works
Frequency of Honours lists
Honours lists are issued on the occasion of the New Year (30/31 December), the New Zealand observance of The King's Birthday (first Monday in June) and in Special Lists (e.g. for gallantry and bravery awards) as required.
Promulgation of Honours
Appointments to The Order of New Zealand, The New Zealand Order of Merit and The Queen’s Service Order, awards of The Queen’s Service Medal, awards of New Zealand Gallantry and Bravery Awards, awards of The New Zealand Antarctic Medal, appointments to dynastic Orders, and the grant of the title "The Honourable" are published in the New Zealand Gazette.
Nominations may be made by any person or persons by completing a nomination form. Nomination forms and information on the honours system are available from the Honours Unit, Members of Parliament and Electorate Offices. A separate form is available for bravery awards.
Selection of nominations
Twice a year the Prime Minister, with the assistance of a Cabinet Committee of Ministers studies all nominations received and from which a selection or shortlist is made for submission to The King. The number of nominations received always exceeds the number of honours available and it is inevitable that recognition will not immediately be given to all nominees for honours.
With the exception of New Zealand Defence Force personnel, all nominees on the shortlist are asked on the behalf of the Governor-General, whether the proposal to include their name in an honours list is acceptable before The King formally approves an honour.
By long-standing convention, the source of nominations received by the Prime Minister is not disclosed.
Recommendations of the King
The formal responsibility for making recommendations to The King for the grant of honours rests with the Prime Minister or a Minister of the Crown acting for the Prime Minister.
Allocation of Honours
The Royal Warrants (known as Statutes) instituting the three New Zealand Orders prescribe the maximum number of appointments which may be made to each, either at any one time or on an annual basis.
The number of honours conferred in the regular honours lists total about 380 per annum.
Persons who are not New Zealand citizens or citizens of nations of which The King is Head of State are eligible to receive honorary appointments to the New Zealand Orders and honorary awards of The Queen’s Service Medal. Honorary knights and dames do not use a title.
Apart from Gallantry and Bravery Awards, appointments to the New Zealand Orders cannot be made for persons who have died.
In the case of honours for meritorious services to the community and to other fields of endeavour, announced on the occasion of the New Year and The King’s Birthday, a nominee is required to indicate his or her acceptance of the honour before The King formally approves the appointment to a particular Order. Persons who have died are not in a position to indicate their acceptance.
In those situations where informal approval has been given by The King and the nominee has been sounded and indicated willingness to accept the award, and the nominee dies before The King formally approves the appointment, the award stands. The honour will be announced with a notation to the effect "That His Majesty’s approval to the honour was given prior to the date of decease". If the nominee has been sounded but dies before indicating their acceptance, the nomination lapses.
Existing holders of British Honours
Existing holders of British State Honours continue to enjoy their privileges within the New Zealand Royal Honours System.
The Governor-General, on behalf of The King, holds regular investiture ceremonies at Government House, Wellington, to present the insignia to those persons named in the honours lists. Occasionally a special investiture may be held for a new appointee to the Order of New Zealand.
The first investiture in New Zealand in 1848 included a Māori element and since that time special investitures have been held on marae and at other venues.
On 6 October 1943 the then Governor-General, Sir Cyril (later Lord) Newall, conducted a special investiture at Whakarua Park, in Ruatoria on the East Coast, at which he presented the Victoria Cross posthumously awarded to Second Lieutenant Moana Nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, to his parents, and other decorations and awards to members of the 28th Maori Battalion.
The Governor-General, on behalf of The King, also confers the accolade of knighthood. The Governor-General taps the right and then left shoulders of the knight, who kneels on his right knee before the Governor-General, with the flat edge of the blade of a sword. This ritual also is known as the ‘dubbing’. After the accolade is conferred, the knight receives the insignia of his knighthood.
Enquiries relating to the New Zealand Royal Honours System should be directed to the Honours Unit.