The Queen of New Zealand is the “Fount of Honour”. This means that she grants all honours and awards to New Zealanders on behalf of the nation. These awards are given for a very wide array of reasons. Honours are given for military service, for contributions to the arts, and to science. They are given for years of volunteer work, or moments of great bravery. One award, the Order of Merit is given to people “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”.
The Honours Secretariat compiles public recommendations for honours and presents them to the government for consideration. The government’s recommendations are passed to the Queen who makes the formal appointments and publishes the names in two lists. Honours are announced on New Year’s Day, in the New Year’s Honours List, and on the first Monday of June, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
The Governor-General, on behalf of the Queen, holds investitures for the people named in these lists at various points throughout the year. Our highest honour is the Order of New Zealand. The Queen is sovereign of the order. Beneath her, the Governor-General is Chancellor of the order. Beneath him are a maximum ordinary membership of twenty members. The order was instituted in 1987, “to recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity.” In a speech, the Governor-General “acknowledged the people who have been appointed as Members of The Order of New Zealand for having made a signal contribution to our country”.
Beneath the Order of New Zealand is the New Zealand Order of Merit. The Order of Merit is divided into five levels. Each level signifies a different level of achievement or contribution.
A third New Zealand honour is the Queen’s Service Order and the associated Queen’s Service Medal. All of these awards are made on the advice of ministers, with the approval of The Queen. The Queen has a number of personal honours which she may grant to New Zealanders at her own discretion. The awards are very rare. Recipients have included Sir Edmund Hillary, Knight of the Garter.
New Zealanders wishing to nominate fellow citizens for public recognition should submit their recommendations and their reasons for making them to the Prime Minister, either directly, or through a Member of Parliament. Nominations are then considered by a Cabinet Committee.