Former PM John Key tops Queen's Birthday honours with knighthood for services to the state video

Chris McKeen/FAIRFAX NZ

Former prime minister John Key has been knighted in the 2017 Queen's Birthday Honours.

Former prime minister John Key, who was instrumental in reinstating the titles of knights and dames, has received one of the top honours in today's Queen's Birthday list.

Key, who was prime minister for eight years from 2008 until his surprise resignation in December, has been made a Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit which brings with it the title of Sir John.

But he said he still expected people would call him plain John.

"The cap fits - so absolutely John."

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"The thing I really like about it isn't that people would call me Sir John - because I think most people will call me John - but the real issue is for Bronagh, I always thought she was a great ambassador for New Zealand in that she's always a person that never wanted to court the limelight but she was a huge rock of support and did a fabulous  job. The fact that she'll be Lady Bronagh is something I really like."

John - make that Sir John - Key after Bill English signed in as his replacement as prime minister
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

John - make that Sir John - Key after Bill English signed in as his replacement as prime minister

However Key will be in Singapore on Monday when the honour list is revealed, as he carves out his new career on the speaking circuit and in the corporate and charity world, and he will not catch up with Bronagh to celebrate until they meet in Sydney on Tuesday where he will join Prince Harry at an event to mark 500 days until the start of the veterans' Paralympics-style Invictus Games in Sydney.

But the two are planning a holiday in the south of Italy soon after.

Key said as the architect of the move to reinstated titles, after they were scrapped under Helen Clark's government, he felt he should accept that level of award, rather than an Order of New Zealand (ONZ).

"I was rung by Prime Minister Bill English and offered the GNZM which is a level one offer that comes with a knighthood. Obviously if in principle I had wanted to take the Order of New Zealand I could have done that, but it would have been pretty odd for the person who brought back titular honours to have turned one of those down."

He had been a strong believer in titles, not out of self interest but because they were very popular.

"When we changed it, 85 per cent of all the people that had the right to convert to having a dame or knighthood took that up. And the honours system's never been more popular so I think New Zealanders like the principle of it."

He said he was humbled by the award.

Former prime minister John Key and his wife Bronagh during their visit to the Grand Mosque in Delhi, India. "The fact ...
ADNAN ABIDI

Former prime minister John Key and his wife Bronagh during their visit to the Grand Mosque in Delhi, India. "The fact that she'll be Lady Bronagh is something I really like."

"But I see it as a result of the fact that I had a fantastic cabinet and caucus and millions of New Zealanders voted to allow me to be prime minister. So in reality on my own I couldn't have done this and it's an honour that has to be shared amongst all those people. I hope those who supported me and the government can take some pride in what's been achieved."

Key was first elected as an MP for Helensville in 2002 and became leader of the National party in 2006. His citation lists his achievements in trade and international issues and in leading the government during the Christchurch earthquakes, Global Financial Crisis and a range of economic, social and environmental reforms.

It also notes his championing of the national cycleway and the significant number of treaty settlements on his watch, as well as his role in "initiatives focused on enhancing New Zealand's sense of nationhood". 

The highest profile of those was probably his unsuccessful campaign to change the flag, which was rejected in a referendum.

Key said given the option of today's knighthood or a new flag he would "love both" but would pump for a new flag.

"To me it just symbolised what I thought was really important about New Zealand clearly demonstrating to the world it was making its way in the world under its own steam. But in the end you don't get those choices in politics... so you learn on politics to enjoy your victories and learn from your defeats."

"I don't think anyone knows which way Winston's going to go, including Winston," John Key on how Winston Peters will ...
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

"I don't think anyone knows which way Winston's going to go, including Winston," John Key on how Winston Peters will jump after the election.

​Key said the speaking circuit was "great and it pays well and you are always around tremendous people," but he did not see that being a full-time job and he preferred the challenge of the boardroom.

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In his new life after politics Key has been appointed to the Air New Zealand board and has two other director's jobs pending, with one as chairman, but he cannot yet name them.

He has also taken a role advising a $200 billion United States corporation on its investments in China as well as an advisory role with a New York fund manager, the names of which he would also not disclose. He has previously revealed a role as a representative of Japanese billionaire Dr Haruhisa Handa.

THE KEY MESSAGES

On a knighthood versus an Order of New Zealand:


"Obviously if in principle I had wanted to take the Order of New Zealand I could have done that, but it would have been pretty odd for the person who brought back titular honours to have turned one of those down.  It's fairly logical given I brought them back that that would probably be the honour they would offer me so there's no point in dressing it up for anything that it's not. I think that was the logic that went through the committee's mind. They would have probably benchmarked that against Helen Clark who got the Order of New Zealand which is a level one honour or other prime ministers that have had level one honours."

Knights and Dames Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit
GNZM
John Philip Key
For services to the State
DNZM
Julie Claire Molloy Christie
For services to governance and the television industry
Emeritus Professor Peggy Gwendoline Koopman-Boyden
For services to seniors
KNZM
Graeme Dingle
For services to youth
Michael Niko Jones
For services to the Pacific community and youth
Professor Timoti Samuel Karetu
For services to the Maori language

On the advantages of being "Sir John":

"I don't think it changes much in NZ. People will know me as a three term prime minister, they'll have their views on whether I did a good job or bad job - hopefully - it's a positive view ... internationally by the level of feedback in the last six months since I have been out of politics I think it's pretty fair to say I have been pretty well received overseas. There have been a huge number of offers that  I myself would never have really thought would come my way.  So I don't think it changes an awful lot but it's a lovely thing to have and it's a nice thing for the family."

Will his children Max and Stephanie call him "sir"? 

"I very much doubt it. It would be nice if they do but knowing the kids they'll be treating me just as normal and taking my advice when it suits them and ignoring it when it doesn't."

QSO, QSM, NZAM, Distinguished Service Decoration recipients
QSO
Paul Richard Baxter
For services to the New Zealand Fire Service
Mary Anne Garner
For services to the community
Mary Bernadette Gavin
For services to women and the community
Michael John Gorman
For services to the community
Deirdre Anne Jolly
For services to the community
Mokataufoou Togakilo Sipeli
For services to the Niue community and education
QSM
Clarice Lee Anderson
For services to the blind and seniors
Kerry John Bensemann
For services to the community
Miroroa Te Kune Blackmore
For services to Maori
Beryl Mary Bowers
For services to the community
Kenneth Frederick Bradley
For services to conservation
Timothy Richard Bray
For services to children and theatre
Dermot Peter Byrne
For services to the community
Linda Rae Chalmers
For services to art
Annie Naw Coates
For services to ethnic communities
Neville Terence Coslett
For services to the community
Ronald Grant Crawford
For services to education
Keita Rangimarie Dawson
For services to Maori and seniors
Ana Maria de Vos Sanchez
For services to ethnic communities
Bruce Leslie Didham
For services to the New Zealand Fire Service
Brian William Dobson
For services to the New Zealand Fire Service and rugby
Brian Robert Dodds
For services to healthcare and the community
Elizabeth Charmaine Donaldson
For services to health and seniors
Doris Christine Dunn
For services to the community
Mark White Edmonds
For services to sport
Fraser McDonald Faulknor
For services to children, education and music
Lois May Finderup
For services to the fashion industry and theatre
David John Finlay
For services to irrigation and sport
Merrilyn Frances George
For services to education and the community
Judith Jane Gilbert
For services to conservation
Jacqueline Barbara Grinder
For services to the community
Rehia Shirley Te Amere Hanara
For services to Maori and education
Michael James Hanrahan
For services to the community
David Hansford
For services to the environment
Duncan John Hart
For services to the community
Sandra Barbara Anne Hunter
For services to the community
Peter Alexander Jack
For services to sport, particularly athletics
Kulwinder Singh Jhamat
For services to the Indian community
William Richard Johns
For services to the community
Karl Frederick Lapwood
For services to the New Zealand Fire Service and business
Julia Rosemary Lowe
For services to the community
Railene Denise Mabin
For services to the Plunket Society
Richard Donald Madden
For services to music
Shirley Ann May
For services to music and the community
Sharon Julie Maynard
For services to Maori and education
Dorothy Margaret McKinnon
For services to the community
Gair McRae
For services to theatre and youth
Janet Elaine McRobbie
For services to Girl Guides and the community
William Kevin Moore
For services to outdoor education and the community
Charles Arthur Morgan
For services to the sport of wood chopping
James Edward Morgan
For services to the community
Ann Shirley Muir
For services to bowls and the community
Iris Mae Officer-Holmes
For services to the community
Michael Francis O'Neill
For services to the New Zealand Fire Service and the community
Brian Scott Palliser
For services to the community
Barry Richard Pomeroy
For services to veterans and the community
Prabha Ravi
For services to ethnic communities and dance
Claire Aileen Reilly
For services to people with Motor Neurone Disease
Timothy Peter Sander
For services to pipe bands and the community
Frances Jean Scammell
For services to the community
Miles Duncan Shelley
For services to the New Zealand Fire Service and the community
Julian Mervyn Shields
For services to the community
Peter Bruce Simmonds
For services to theatre
Geoffrey Brian Spearpoint
For services to outdoor recreation
Karen Elizabeth Stade
For services to historical research and the community
Daphne Gretta Mary Stevens
For services to music
Roderick John Sutherland
For services to athletics, cycling and the community
Marara Kaweora Te Tai Hook
For services to Maori
Valerie Joan Thorburn
For services to music education
Evan Allan Watkin
For services to cricket
Cara June Watson
For services to music
Dawn Betty White
For services to veterans
NZAM
Randal Murray Heke
For services to New Zealand interests in Antarctica and historic preservation
NZDSD
Staff Sergeant Tina Kathleen Grant
For services to the New Zealand Defence Forces
Brigadier Anthony Bryan Howie
For services to the New Zealand Defence Forces
Squadron Leader Nicholas Michael Pedley
For services to the New Zealand Defence Forces
Major Charmaine Maurita Tate
For services to the New Zealand Defence Forces
Major Andrew James Anthony Thornton
For services to the New Zealand Defence Forces

On the criticism that people get awards "just for doing their job".

"If you are brutally honest and intellectually fair about the thing every prime minister has an honour... It's just which one that you either get offered or accept. When it comes to the honours system... in my experience there's about 190 people on the list. Often what really touches their hearts are the stories of the 92-year-old nun that lives in Temuka that gave her life to serving the people of that community rather than necessarily those who are at the top of the tree in terms of  the honour pecking order. To a certain degree there are people (whose job leads to them) to some honour and that can be anything from an All Black or sports person right through to a politician. I don't think most people would begrudge that. In terms of doing that job, it's a job that requires enormous commitment from a lot of people, not least being my family, so I gave everything I could through eight years at the top."

What criteria did he apply when he chaired the honours committee: 

There's a sort of set formula if you like. And generally for a level one honour it has to be someone at the highest level that has nationwide impact. That's what determines the level of honour that you get. The lower down... the aisle the more regional in nature or localised in nature it is.

CNZM, ONZM, MNZM recipients
CNZM
Mary Tupai Ama
For services to the arts and the Pacific community
James Patrick Anderton
For services as a Member of Parliament
Roy James Austin
For services to children's health and the community
Peter Kerry Clark
For services to bowls
Candis Eileen Craven
For services to ballet and business
Angus Lindsay Fergusson
For services to governance
Professor Peter John Gilling
For services to Urology
Anthony John Hall
For services to education and sport
Professor Richie Graham Poulton
For services to science and health research
Lynette Diana Provost
For services to the State
Dr Lesley Louise Rhodes
For services to science and marine farming
Dr George Cockburn Salmond
For services to health
Maxine Helen Simmons
For services to science, particularly biotechnology
ONZM
Desmond Albert Ashton
For services to the New Zealand Defence Force and aviation
Professor Anne Victoria Cameron
For services to health
Dr David Michael Chamley
For services to anaesthesia
Avon Cook
For services to the manufacturing industry
Brendan Joseph Duffy
For services to local government
William Robert Dunbar
For services to health and the community
Susanne Patricia Edwards
For services to synchronised swimming
Craig Clifford Emeny
For services to aviation and the community
Allan Raymond Fenwick
For services to the thoroughbred racing industry
Professor Philippa Helen Gander
For services to the study of sleep and fatigue
Wahiao Raymond James Gray
For services to Maori and governance
Alan John Hackett
For services to adventure tourism
Mark Selwyn Hadlow
For services to the arts
Assistant Commissioner Wallace Patrick Haumaha
For services to the New Zealand Police and Maori, Pacific and ethnic communities
David Thomas Higgins
For services to Maori
Ruruarau Heitia Hiha
For services to Maori
Rachel Jessica Te Ao Maarama House
For services to the performing arts
Peter Guy Hughes
For services to mathematics education
Susan Mary Huria
For services to governance
Professor Hamid Ikram
For services to cardiology and education
Dr Zafer Khouri
For services to odontology
Wendy Elizabeth McGowan
For services to rural women
Caroline Harriette Eliza Milne
For services to Maori and health
Simon John O'Neill
For services to opera
Lynda Jean Reid
For services to education
Dr Geoffrey Maxwell Robinson
For services to medicine
Graeme James Steel
For services to sport
Geoffrey Alan Whitcher
For services to business and education
Deborah Mary White
For services to art
Frances Wilson-Fitzgerald
For services to opera
Honorary
Jane Marina Bruning
For services to people with HIV
MNZM
Ross Alexander Aitken
For services to conservation
Kevin Russell Allen
For services to people with brain injuries
Douglas Graham Avery
For services to agriculture and mental health
Janis Irene Ballantyne
For services to education and the community
Jacqueline Marie Barron
For services to sports governance and education
Lilian Jeanne Biddulph
For services to literacy education
Pembroke Peraniko Bird
For services to education and Maori
Professor Sally Anne Brooker
For services to science
Cranwell Leslie Bull
For services to cricket
Deborah Bush
For services to women's health
Stephen Edward Canny
For services to the community, governance and cycling
David Joseph Comber
For services to Search and Rescue
Marilyn Elaine Cooper
For services to equestrian sports
Hamish Angus Crooks
For services to the Pacific community
Anne Crummer
For services to music
Sharyn Estelle Evans
For services to music
Anne Lillian Farrington
For services to women
William Thomas Gray
For services to Maori and the community
Timothy Michael Gresson
For services to the law and sport
James Alastair Hay Guild
For services to the deer industry
Ray Kenway Haffenden
For services to rugby league
Shane Paul Arthur Hales
For services to entertainment
Peter John Hayden
For services to film and television
Emeritus Professor John Bernard Hearnshaw
For services to astronomy
Inspector Karen Lee Henrikson
For services to the New Zealand Police and the community
Sally Tupetalamataone Ikinofo
For services to education and Maori and Pacific communities
Associate Professor Robert John Jacobs
For services to optometry and education
Graham Russell Kennedy
For services to business
Rebecca Louise Keoghan
For services to business, particularly the dairy industry
Robert Akhtar Zainal Khan
For services to broadcasting and the Indian community
Rachel Alison Mary Lang
For services to television
Elaine Joy Le Sueur
For services to education
Peter Hughes MacGregor
For services to Maori and agriculture
John Barry Maughan
For services to health
Dennis Graham May
For services to karate
Dr Jill Alice McIlraith
For services to health and women
Maurice William McKendry
For services to harness racing
Allen John McLaughlin
For services to sports broadcasting
Robin Gustav McNeill
For services to conservation
Mereford Michael Meredith
For services as a restaurateur and to philanthropy
Te Kei O Te Waka Wilson Merito
For services to Maori and conservation
Peter Charles Morrison
For services to the hospitality industry
Rhonda Marama Mullen-Tamati
For services to people with HIV and AIDS
Thomas Vincent O'Connor
For services to boxing
Albert Emil Osborne
For services to veterans and biosecurity
Dr Fiona Dorothy Pardington
For services to photography
Alan Rodney Parris
For services to mathematical education
Emily Justine Perkins
For services to literature
Nicholas Brian Pyke
For services to the arable industry
Lee Michael Christopher Robinson
For services to the community and sport
John Roy-Wojciechowski
For services to the Polish community and philanthropy
Judith Fay Russell
For services to netball
Allan Ross Scarlett
For services to local government and the dairy industry
Patrick Nesbit Snedden
For services to education and Maori
Murray Ross Sutherland
For services to the community and the timber industry
Toro Edward Reginald Waaka
For services to Maori and the community
Linda Gloria Webb
For services to music education
Professor Karen Elizabeth Willcox
For services to aerospace engineering and education

On whether he would rather have the knighthood or the new flag he campaigned for:

"I'd love both. I guess I don't get given the choice. Maybe the new flag, in that to me it just symbolised what I thought was really important about New Zealand clearly demonstrating to the world it was making its way in the world under its own steam. But in the end you don't get those choices in politics. The public had a good and fair chance to consider what they wanted and on a majority basis they decided to retain the old flag. So you learn in politics to enjoy your victories and learn from your defeats."

On life after politics:

"Thoroughly enjoyable.  I don't look back and think, 'gosh I made a bad mistake leaving'. Nor do I look back and think 'gosh I should never have been there'. I fell really good about the time I spent as prime minister. Like anything, you inevitably forget the hard days and the tough bits and the times when you felt under the pump and remember the remarkable experiences that you had. Everyone says I look a bit younger and that's probably because I have been getting more sleep. Instead  of getting up at 5.40 in the morning I'm probably getting up at 6.15. I'm definitely in bed a little bit earlier and I'm doing more exercise and that always helps. I never felt like I was drowning under it - in fact I quite enjoyed all the cut and thrust that went on, but there's a level of pressure that's there that you don't get when you're not there. That might change for me as I assume different roles in the corporate world. At the moment it's been a fairly cruisy run."

On his new career as well as the Air NZ directorship:

"I've got so much I really don't know what to do with. I'm doing some stuff for (Japanese billionaire Haruhisa) Handa in Singapore, a charity, and then to Sydney with Prince Harry for the announcement of 500 days before the launch of the Invictus Games in Sydney."

Two more board appointments in Australia and New Zealand will soon be announced. "I am doing something in China for a big US ($200b) corporation -  they've just got some issues there and they're making this multi-billion dollar investments there - well it's certainly $15b investment - so I am doing some work for them. And I've gone on the advisory board of a big fund out of New York so that takes me up to London and New York theoretically four times a year though I can phone on a little bit. I have really been saying no, or putting on hold, a whole host of other things because I am not 100 per cent sure how busy I'll be with the three board appointments one of which I'm chairing in probability."

John's got a new motor  - a shiny new Bentley.
BENTLY MOTORS

John's got a new motor - a shiny new Bentley.

He has also been on the speaking circuit, the latest with accounting firm PwC talking about the Australian Budget to a crowd of 2500 in Brisbane and 1000 in Perth. And he has set up his own company, but doesn't want to do speaking full time. "It's great and it pays well and you are always around tremendous people. But realistically there's nothing quite like having the pressure of really having to make a difference on the board of a company or certainly if you are chairing a company you are pretty engrossed in how its doing and I still find that really interesting."

On a future as a political commentator:  

"I haven't been acting as a Monday morning quarterback for Bill and the team. From time to time I ring or they ring me and help them a little bit, but they've gotta get on with it and they are doing a mighty fine job from what I can see. My general view is that I am not going to become the thorn in the side of any government, certainly not a National one. I 100 per cent support what they do. Even if there is a change of government... I always think those former politicians who do that cut a lonely sort of a figure - it's almost like when you are there get on and do it, when you're out let other people do it, even when they are not from your political persuasion. It's not like I'm afraid to say anything. I've made a few comments about TPP and Donald Trump and the inability to get that over the line.  But it's not my intention to put my head above the parapet in a  major way when it comes to politics. I had a great run when I was there but I don't know whether it would be fair on anyone if I did that."

Yes, but what about the Budget?:

"I really think it was an outstanding Budget and I think it an election-winning Budget. It was very skilfully executed by Steven Joyce. The numbers people will receive via that Budget are large. I remember when we worked really hard to try get the tax cut package so it looked at $50 a week. And while the tax element of the Budget is in some cases around $20-odd dollars - $1000 a year - when you add in some of these big numbers around Working for Families and particularly the Accommodation Supplement they are huge numbers. It showed National - it certainly started that way under me and it's continued under the new PM - that they are very focused on the voter-rich middle ground and that's where you have to be if you want to win elections.

So will National win?

"I think they're in the box seat to win. As we have seen in the UK in recent days, polls can tighten up...  but given how strong the numbers are so close to an election we are certainly in a very strong, a very good, position to see National re-elected. I can't tell you what the make-up of the final government would look like, and in the end they still have to put that together and make it happen. But if I was a National supporter I would be feeling a lot more confident than a Labour one."

But what will Winston Peters and NZ First do?:

"I don't think anyone knows which way Winston's going to go, including Winston. History shows he has gone with the biggest party and he's been fairly consistent on that front.  It'll be easier for him to do a deal without me being there I would have thought. I don't think that was a deal breaker in itself. It wasn't the factor that made me step down, I just think inevitably a little bit easier. He'll come along with the demands that he historically always has and we'll see either who can form a government or who meets them. But there are no guarantees even for Winston. He was talking a big game in 2014 and in 2008 and on neither of those occasions did he get over the line and put himself in a position to form a Government. So the fact that  Winston Peters says he will be the king maker doesn't mean he will be."

On a game of golf with former chief of staff Wayne Eagleson on Thursday while Eagleson's new boss Bill English was in Samoa: 

"The cat was away in Samoa, so the mice will play. Yep, i beat him and I rubbed it in the whole way there and back. I was humble in my victory. I won by heaps - I lost count. Bigger than the surplus was."

On Donald Trump's new word "covfefe". What does it mean?:

"It could be a spelling mistake from Donald Trump. Other than that I've never heard the word. From someone who has made up their own series of words I'm hardly one to criticise  I've got a soul mate. I've got form: Afghanistanian."

And you have been spotted driving a new motor - a Bentley?:

"It started life as a bit of a joke; I was going to buy one; but it ended up as a reality in the garage. It's a beautiful car I have to say. A Bentley Continental V8 GT. I never had a car when I was PM. Now I've got to drive myself. I was in a Crown car the other night for the first time since I left Parliament - I went to the China business awards so it fits the criteria. It felt quite strange actually. How times change."

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