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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Early Practice

The practice of conferring British honours on distinguished persons in New Zealand dates from 1858 when the then Governor, Sir Thomas Gore Browne, was invited to bring deserving cases to the notice of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Originally these recommendations, which were made by the Governor without reference to his ministers, were for one or other of the classes in the Civil Division of the Order of the Bath. Later, probably in the 1860s, the Governor consulted unofficially with the Premier whenever recommendations were to be made. In the early 1870s the Statutes of the Order of St. Michael and St. George were revised to enable colonial statesmen to receive honours for their services. Until after the passing of the Statute of Westminster, however, colonial honours were notified in the English lists, although, on occasion, the Governor was informed in time to make a simultaneous announcement. By 1931 the New Zealand Prime Minister had assumed a larger part in preparing the list of recommendations. Up until the First World War honours were conferred only in the two orders already mentioned, as well as in the Imperial Service Order (since 1902) and in the degree of Knight Bachelor. Only one or two New Zealanders were included and sometimes years might pass between successive conferments. The constitution of the Order of the British Empire, in 1917, has meant that more honours are available for Commonwealth citizens. The practice of publishing honours lists at the New Year and on the occasion of the Sovereign's birthday is comparatively recent, being adopted in the early years of this century. Previous to this New Zealand creations were either “spontaneous”, as in the case of Sir William Fox and Sir Edward Stafford, or were made on the anniversary of the orders concerned.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.