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New Zealand Order of Merit
New Zealand Order of Merit badge WP.svg
Badge of the Order
Awarded by the monarch of New Zealand
Type National order of merit
Motto For Merit—Tohu Hiranga
Eligibility Citizens of Commonwealth realms
Criteria 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 Dame Patsy Reddy
  • Knight/Dame Grand Companion (GNZM)
  • Knight/Dame Companion (KNZM/DNZM)
  • Companion (CNZM)
  • Officer (ONZM)
  • Member (MNZM)
Last induction 2020 Queen's Birthday 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 merit in the New Zealand royal honours system. It was established by royal warrant 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", to recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity.

In the order of precedence, the New Zealand Order of Merit ranks immediately after the Order of New Zealand.


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. 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".


David Ledon at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
Rear Admiral David Ledson, ONZM, RNZN, wearing the medal for Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

The monarch of New Zealand is the Sovereign of the order and the Governor-General is its Chancellor. Appointments are made at five levels:

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

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".

The number of Knights and Dames Grand Companion (and Principal Companions) is limited to 30 living people. Additionally, new appointments are limited to 15 Knights or Dames Companion, 40 Companions, 80 Officers and 140 Members per year.

As well as the five levels, there are three different 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.

There is also a Secretary and Registrar (the Clerk of the Executive Council) and a Herald (the New Zealand Herald of Arms) of the Order.

Insignia and other distinctions

Grand Companion'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 (though the Governor-General usually wears it as a neck decoration in lieu of the Collar); 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.

Office holders

  • Sovereign: Elizabeth II
  • Chancellor and Principal Dame Grand Companion: The Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy
  • Secretary and Registrar: Michael L. C. Webster (18 March 2014)
  • Herald: Philip O'Shea CNZM CVO (23 September 1996)

Living Grand and Principal Companions

No. Name Portrait Honour Date of appointment Known for Present age
1 Sir William Birch
Bill Birch.jpg Knight Grand Companion 7 June 1999 38th Minister of Finance 89
2 Dame Sian Elias
Sian Elias 2016 (cropped).jpg Dame Grand Companion 7 June 1999 12th Chief Justice of New Zealand 74
3 Sir Lloyd Geering
Lloyd Geering 2020 (cropped).jpg Knight Grand Companion 30 December 2000 Theological scholar 105
4 Dame Malvina Major
Malvina Major (cropped).jpg Dame Grand Companion 31 December 2007 Opera singer 80
5 Sir Ray Avery
Ray Avery (cropped).jpg Knight Grand Companion 31 December 2010 Pharmaceutical scientist 76
6 Sir Murray Brennan
Murray Brennan (cropped).jpg Knight Grand Companion 31 December 2014 Surgeon, cancer researcher & medical academic 83
7 Sir John Key
John Key GNZM (cropped).jpg Knight Grand Companion 5 June 2017 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand 62
8 Sir Stephen Tindall
Stephen Tindall GNZM (cropped).jpg Knight Grand Companion 31 December 2018 Businessman and philanthropist 72
Additional appointments
Sir Michael Hardie Boys
Michael Hardie Boys.jpg Knight Grand Companion 3 June 1996 Former Governor-General 92
Dame Silvia Cartwright
Silvia Cartwright 2017 (cropped).jpg Principal Companion 20 March 2001 Former Governor-General 80
Sir Anand Satyanand
Anand Satyanand official photo (cropped).jpg Knight Grand Companion 5 June 2006 Former Governor-General 79
Sir Jerry Mateparae
Jerry Mateparae official photo (cropped).jpg Knight Grand Companion 20 May 2011 Former Governor-General 69
Dame Patsy Reddy
Patsy Reddy in 2018 (cropped).jpg Dame Grand Companion 27 June 2016 Governor-General 69
Dame Helen Winkelmann
Helen Winkelmann 2014 (cropped).jpg Dame Grand Companion 4 March 2019 13th Chief Justice of New Zealand 61

Living Distinguished Companions

The following contains the names of the small number of living Distinguished Companions (DCNZM) who chose not to convert their appointment to a Knight or Dame Companion, and thus not to accept the respective appellation of "Sir" or "Dame". The majority of those affected chose the aforereferenced appellations.

Name Portrait Date of appointment Known for Present age
Vincent O’Sullivan
5 June 2000 Writer and actor 86
Witi Ihimaera
Witi Ihimaera (cropped).jpg 7 June 2004 Writer 80
Penny Jamieson
7 June 2004 Former Bishop of Dunedin 81
Joy Cowley
Joy Cowley ONZ (cropped).jpg 6 June 2005 Writer 87
Sam Neill
Sam Neill 2010.jpg 30 December 2006 Actor 76
Patricia Grace
4 June 2007 Writer 86
Margaret Wilson
Margaret Wilson crop.jpg 31 December 2008 Former Speaker of Parliament 76

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Orden del Mérito de Nueva Zelanda para niños

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