The New Zealand Order of Merit


The New Zealand Order of Merit was instituted by Royal Warrant dated 30 May 1996. The Order is awarded to those “who in any field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and the nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions, or other merits”.


His Majesty The King is Sovereign and the Governor-General is Chancellor of the Order. 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.


The Order allows for Ordinary, Additional and Honorary membership. Those citizens of countries of which The King is sovereign are eligible for Ordinary membership.

Breast Star of a Knight or Dame Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit

Additional members are appointed on significant royal, national or state occasions.


There are five levels within the Order:

  • Dames and Knights Grand Companions
  • Dames and Knights Companions
  • Companions
  • Officers
  • Members
  • Breast Star of a Knight or Dame Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit Badge of a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (neck ribbon).
    Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit

    A badge, in the form of a cross in white enamel set in silver-gilt (gold) with, in the centre, a medallion comprising the New Zealand Coat of Arms in coloured enamel, within a circle of green enamel bearing the motto of the Order and surmounted by a Royal Crown. Since the Royal Warrant was revised in 2009, the badge may be worn in three ways: suspended from a wide ribbon or sash over the right-hand shoulder, passing to the left-hand side of the waist, and resting on the left hip; from a neck ribbon; or from a ribbon bow worn on the left shoulder (chest).

    Lapel badges and miniatures

    Lapel badges for everyday wear, and miniatures for evening wear, and on other appropriate occasions, are available to members of the various levels of the Order.

    The insignia of The New Zealand Order of Merit is currently supplied by Thomas Fattorini Ltd., of the United Kingdom, and Eng Leong Medallic Industries Pte Ltd., of Singapore.

    Elizabeth II wearing the sash and star of the New Zealand Order of Merit Queen Elizabeth II wearing the sash and star of the New Zealand Order of Merit

    The motto of the Order is FOR MERIT, in English, and TOHU HIRANGA, in Māori. The literal translation of the Māori is “to achieve excellence”.

    As the Order is an ‘Order of Chivalry’, a cross [a straight cross paty (or formy) convex] was selected for the badge. The particular shape of the cross chosen is not significant, although it has been found on several Māori tribal flags of the nineteenth century. The motto is set in green enamel which alludes to the highly prized pounamu or New Zealand greenstone (nephrite) which is noted for its beauty and toughness.

    The breast star is based on the head or crown of the ponga or silver fern tree (cyathea dealbata) which is common throughout the country. It is regarded as a national emblem of New Zealand. The fern frond, in particular the silver fern frond, is to New Zealand what the oak leaves are to England and the laurel leaves to the world at large, i.e. the symbol of the champion, the winner or the achiever.

    The ribbon and sash of the Order is plain red ochre (kokowai).

    Design of The New Zealand Orders

    The Māori dimension
    Traditional Māori designs, colours, and symbolism have been blended into the design of the insignia of the three New Zealand Orders (the King's Service Order and associated Medal, the Order of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Order of Merit).

    Badge of the New Zealand Order of Merit Badge of the New Zealand Order of Merit

    Red ochre (kokowai) has been used in the ribbon of each Order. This colour has a spiritual significance for Māori. Red ochre was given official sanction as a national colour with the institution of the Queen's Service Order in 1975. (Other New Zealand national colours are black and white/silver and these may be found in the design of a variety of ribbons for other medals.) Red and gold are traditional colours associated with knighthood, and red is often used in heraldry to allude to toil, hard work and achievement.

    The Warrants of Appointment (certificates) issued to those persons appointed to New Zealand's Orders are in English and Te Reo Māori.

    The designer of New Zealand's honours insignia
    The various insignia of New Zealand's Orders has been designed by Phillip O’Shea, CNZM, CVO, New Zealand Herald of Arms Extraordinary to The King. He also designed the New Zealand Gallantry and Bravery Awards (except for the Victoria Cross for New Zealand) and many other official medals.