Titles of Dames, Knights to be restored - Key

The titles of Dames and Knights are to be restored to the New Zealand honours system, Prime Minister John Key announced today.

In 2000 the then Labour government dropped titles from the top levels of the honours system, but from June they will be restored to them both - Knight and Dame Grand Companion (GNZM) and Knight and Dame Companion (KNZM/DNZM).

These titles will replace the appointment of Principal and Distinguished Companion of the order which were instituted in May 2000.

Some complained that the decision was part of the move to republicanism and others were unhappy that it made difficult for people to understand what titles had been awarded.

Mr Key said it was his pleasure to return to titles that would recognise service given to New Zealand.

"This is about celebrating success," Mr Key said.

He believed people had found it confusing not to have titles

"Roughly every year about six or seven New Zealanders are selected and given a very high honour to recognise and celebrate success."

The 85 New Zealanders who were given honours which used to come with a title will now be given the opportunity to accept the title of Knight or Dame.

"The Queen has given approval for the reinstatement of titles. The changes will be finalised and come into effect in time for the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June," Mr Key said.

They will have until June 2009 to decide whether they want to accept the title.

Amongst those who can take up the new titles are; Lloyd Geering, Ngatata Love, Eddie Durie, Peter Gluckman, Colin Meads, Stephen Tindall, Margaret Shields and Jenny Shipley.

Another person who will be offered the title of Dame is former attorney-general and speaker Margaret Wilson, who helped scrap the titles.

Mr Key said he had no views whether people should accept or reject the title.

He felt the decision was the best way of New Zealand having its own unique honours system.

He stood by his belief that New Zealand would one day become a republic, but his Government would be taking no active steps toward it.

The issue had been discussed with the Queen when he met with her late last year and she had agreed to the move.

The Green's co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said New Zealand's Honours system should remain independent.

"We should celebrate outstanding New Zealanders as New Zealanders rather than as part of an outgrown relationship with the British Empire," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"We're surprised at the priority this topic has received when the country faces an economic and environmental crisis."

New Zealand's honours system was last revised in 1996, at that time the New Zealand Order of Merit was established and various British Orders were discontinued.

- NZPA

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