New royal honours established

30 May 1996

Cartoon about New Zealand's honours system (Malcolm Evans)

A New Zealand Royal Honours System was established with the institution of the New Zealand Order of Merit, which replaced the various British State Orders of Chivalry. From 1848 to 1975 New Zealand shared in the British honours system. Between 1975 and 1996, the system was a mix of British and New Zealand honours.

The New Zealand Royal Honours System, administered by the Honours Secretariat, comprises The Order of New Zealand, The New Zealand Order of Merit, The Queen’s Service Order and Medal, and a series of gallantry and bravery awards.

The Order of New Zealand is this country’s highest honour. It was instituted by Royal Warrant, dated 6 February 1987, ‘to recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity’. Recipients of this award do not receive a title. Ordinary membership of the Order is limited to 20 living persons.

In 2009 Prime Minister John Key announced that titles were to be reinstated in the New Zealand Honours system. This meant the return of the titles of Knight and Dame Grand Companion (GNZM) and Knight and Dame Companion (KNZM/DNZM).