Defence minister Ron Mark was specifically told he was breaking all the rules wearing his military medals but went ahead and did so anyway.

Documents show Mark was told on October 27 - just after being sworn in as Minister of Defence - that his rack of medals was a breach of protocol and rules.

The NZ First deputy leader went on wearing his medals until November 15 when the Herald revealed he was in breach of the regulations governing decorations.

Mark's medals wrongly placed his Omani service in a position over prominence over his New Zealand service. Also, wearing the Omani medals wrongly suggested he had the required permission from the Governor General's to wear a foreign decoration.

Advertisement

In the 20 days since Mark learned his medals were a breach of the Crown's rules on decorations and honours, he wore them while standing in front of veterans, next to the Chief of Defence Force, with foreign leaders and while inspecting troops.

NZ First leader Winston Peters is asking why Mark didn't simply follow the instructions he was given.

Mark isn't offering any answers. He did not respond to requests for an interview and did not answer questions. A spokesman said: "This matter has now been dealt with and we consider it closed."

The documents show Mark's office was alerted over the medals' issue by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet the day after he was sworn in.

It had been the subject of a conversation between a NZ Defence Force lieutenant colonel working in Mark's office as a private secretary and an expert working in DPMC's honours secretariat.

In a follow up email, the honours expert told the lieutenant colonel it would be "appropriate" for the Minister to have his medal rack changed to give his New Zealand service "pride of place" before he addressed the RSA the following week.

Ron Mark with his medals at the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Beersheba on October 31.
Ron Mark with his medals at the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Beersheba on October 31.

"Also Minister Mark should confirm whether he has received approval for the acceptance and wear of these Omani honours."

The recommendation from the Cabinet Office was for Mark to get his medals remounted. He was also told he should write to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to ask for back-dated permission to wear the Omani medals.

But Mark then turned up at the RSA 101st conference wearing his medals incorrectly, despite the advice.

Advertisement

He then went on to wear the medals at the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, a National War Memorial Function with the German president and at Armistice Day commermorations.

On each of those occasions, he was in the company of uniformed NZDF personnel including the Chief of Defence.

It was not until the NZ Herald story reported Mark was out of line with his medals' rack that he finally took action.

The documents show the Cabinet Office recommended Ardern write to the Governor General on Mark's behalf, seeking permission to wear the Omani medals.

Ron Mark with his medals at the opening of Parliament.
Ron Mark with his medals at the opening of Parliament.

Mark was told on December 1 he could wear the medals.

Peters said he was briefed on the issue when the NZ Herald story broke on November 15 and told Mark was "aware of it and it's going to be fixed".

But he was not aware Mark had already been told he was out of line.

"He should have continued to act like the good soldier he is and followed orders," said Peters. "I can't explain that other than he should have done it and gone by the book."

RSA president Barry Clark said it was a matter of some concern to the organisation but not as great a concern as those people wearing medals they never earned.

"The reality is he's entitled to them. People are proud of their service, as long as its legitimate service.

"It is something people need to be aware of - that there is a correct order of wear. Once it is pointed out to them, we hope it is fixed."

Mark is the first Minister of Defence in 30 years to have served full-time in the military, having joined the NZ Army from 1971 then leaving in 1985, apparently in frustration over postings keeping him from joining the NZSAS despite passing its gruelling selection course.

Ron Mark in Oman where he worked as a military officer from 1985 to 1990. Photo / Supplied
Ron Mark in Oman where he worked as a military officer from 1985 to 1990. Photo / Supplied

Mark then went to Oman and signed on to its special forces unit, serving from 1985-1990 and being awarded three medals in that time. Those were the Order of the Special Royal Emblem, awarded to officers in 1985 for their loyal service, the Oman Peace Medal and the Oman 15 Year Ascension Medal, created in 1985 to celebrate 15 years of rule.

The last Minister of Defence to serve full-time in the military was Labour's Frank O'Flynn, who held the role between 1984 and 1987. O'Flynn - a Royal NZ Air Force flight lieutenant - was the last of a string of defence ministers who had served during World War II.