Sir Ron Carter humbled by top honour

The man awarded the country's highest honour says he has never thought of himself as "something extraordinary".

But with only 20 living members allowed in the Order of New Zealand at any given time, Sir Ron Carter is exactly that.

"It really just stops me dead in my tracks... that causes me to feel tremendously humbled by the fact that society has put me in that position."

Sir Ron received the top honour at an investiture ceremony at Government House in Auckland today.

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During the ceremony, Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae explained the significance of Sir Ron's award.

Upon the recipient's death, the award must be returned. Sir Ron's insignia was last worn by health and children's advocate Lady June Blundell, Sir Jerry said.

Sir Ron was recognised for his contributions to New Zealand in the areas of regional and national infrastructure planning, governance, business and education.

He was formerly executive chairman of engineering firm Beca, and the founding chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority. 

Since retiring from Beca in 2002, he has served on the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch earthquakes, chaired the committee which laid the ground work for the Auckland supercity, and initiated the Sir Peter Blake Trust Leadership Awards.

For the past few years Sir Ron has been working on initiatives to help develop Maori business, and at the ceremony wore a traditional Maori cloak that was gifted to him by iwi.

"It's an amazing garment... I'm hugely honoured by the Maori people who made this for me," he said.

He attributed his success to his wife, Lady Lewell Carter.

"My wife has been 100 per cent there all the time, because every time I have to do something it becomes a huge time commitment. Somebody has to keep things going."

Meanwhile, it was a double celebration for former police commissioner Peter Marshall when he officially became a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit today.

The day before he had welcomed a new granddaughter.

"It's all very exciting. It's been a good week."

Marshall was recognised for his service to the New Zealand Police and the community, and described the recognition as "very humbling".

"When I joined the police as a 19-year-old back in 1972 I never thought I'd be at Government House receiving such an honour."

Marshall served as commissioner from 2011 to April this year, and shifted police focus from responding to crime to preventing crime.

During his tenure, the lowest road toll in the 60 years since records began was achieved.

Among the police representatives supporting Marshall at the ceremony was his successor, police commissioner Mike Bush.