A world leader in cancer research, one of the country's top defence lawyers and the Maori Party founder are among the new knights and dames in the New Year's Honours list.
Altogether, 183 have been recognised, with 10 of them taking the title Sir or Dame.
World leader in cancer treatment
New York-based surgeon Murray Brennan has been given this year's highest honour, the Knight Grand Companion of the Order of Merit, for his services to medicine.
Sir Murray, 74, is a world leader in cancer treatment who has written more than 1000 papers in his field.
He was educated at Otago University but has spent most of the past 40 years working in the United States and was chair of the surgery department of the prestigious Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Care Centre in New York for 21 years.
Sir Murray, who is home staying with his son near Queenstown, said today's honour stood out among the many he had received.
"Obviously they would not have happened if I hadn't had this extraordinary start here so obviously I'm more than delighted," he said
"To be recognised in your own country when you haven't been here full-time for many years - nobody really knew what I was doing, I expect - is an extraordinary honour."
Seven named Knights Companion of the Order of Merit
Seven men have been named Knights Companion of the Order of Merit.
They are the defence lawyer and prison reform advocate Peter Williams, QC, architect Ian Athfield, sports administrator Paul Collins, businessman and science advocate Neville Jordan, Catholic educator Brother Patrick Lynch, High Court judge Justice Graham Panckhurst, and businessman and rowing administrator Don Rowlands.
Sir Peter said he was accepting his knighthood on behalf of all the people who had campaigned for social reform in the past century.
"It's a recognition of all those people over the years, and I'm going back 100 years, who fought against things - capital punishment, flogging, improvement in prison conditions."
Sir Peter, who is battling cancer, has also been a vocal advocate for addressing the causes of crime.
Brother Lynch, who has been chief executive of the New Zealand Catholic Education Office for 21 years, said he never contemplated getting an honour in his wildest imagination.
But he said it carried a good message. "Education really is the springboard for people's happiness, fulfilment and success in life. A lot of people just don't quite get that yet," he said.
"While there are a lot of ills in society, education has got to be the silver bullet. When we've got inspiring people in front of kids within a generation, we'll really be at the top of the world when it comes to education."
Justice Panckhurst, who was recognised for his leadership role in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes and the Pike River mine disaster, paid tribute to his colleagues on the bench.
He said there had been lots of changes to the justice system in his time but the basics of the system were still the same and he said there was no need for large-scale changes.
"I'm a little embarrassed at this honour for doing my job and a job that I loved greatly," he said.
"I think its a privilege to be a judge in a country such as ours where you have a good judiciary and a good judicial system and I've simply enjoyed my time as both a lawyer and then a judge. I didn't feel the need for an honour at the end of it all."
Two named Dame Companions of the Order of Merit
Maori Party founder Tariana Turia has been made a Dame Companion of the Order of Merit, as has arts patron and businesswoman Adrienne, Lady Stewart.
Dame Tariana retired from Parliament at the 2014 election, after serving 18 years as an MP.
She began her political life as a Labour MP but quit that party in 2004, going on to form the Maori Party, which has supported Prime Minister John Key's National government since 2008.
Dame Tariana said her greatest achievement had been her drive to instil Maori with a sense of independence, as represented by the social services initiative Whanau Ora.
"Well I'd like to think that the one thing that I have done is given our people faith and self-belief in the essence of who they are and the importance of them maintaining their self-determination in their own hands."
Dame Tariana said the honour came as a huge surprise. "Certainly a really great honour for my family and also my iwi, because I owe it all to them ... Anything that I've done, they've always been there for me, so it's quite huge, really."
In other notable honours, Companions of the Order of Merits, have been awarded to Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, former Split Enz member Mike Chunn, former Telecom boss Teresa Gattung and Mighty River Power chief executive Doug Heffernan.
Mr McCully said Mr Key wanted him to receive the award in acknowledgement of what the Government saw as a significant win.
"It was unusual to do it while Members of Parliament are serving but in this case he was keen to take that step in recognition of the Security Council campaign and I regard it as a recognition of the whole effort that was made by the ministry, in particular, and those who worked with the ministry to achieve what was an outstanding outcome."
Daniel Rockhouse, one of two survivors of the 2010 Pike River Mine explosions, has been awarded the New Zealand Bravery Medal.
Mr Rockhouse dragged his colleague, Russel Smith, out of the mine, essentially saving his life.
His younger brother, Ben Rockhouse, was one of the 29 men who died in the disaster, and he said it felt odd to be rewarded for doing something he could not ignore.
"It didn't really cross my mind not to do what I did. It was just a reaction and I believe it was the right one, and I stick by that ... It turned out to be the right thing to do."
Daniel Rockhouse has spent the past three years working in a coal mine in Australia but recently moved back to New Zealand to be with his children and start a new career in Christchurch.
Girl with the wire whisk
Wine entrepreneur Joseph Babich and Queenstown developer Jim Boult are among those who have become Officers of the Order of Merit, while food writer and cook Jo Seager and Style Pasifika organiser Stan Wolfgramm have become Members of the Order of Merit.
Mrs Seagar has been volunteering for Hospice New Zealand for 16 years and received the honour for that work.
She said she received her award letter from the Governor-General on the day of her mother's funeral.
"It was a lovely surprise, I was very honoured, and I know that my mother would have been thrilled to bits, she would have been very proud.
"People know me as that girl with the wire whisk but I'm equally passionate about the work and I've dedicated a lot of my time to helping fund raise and raise the awareness of the work of hospice."
Mrs Seagar said she would continue to volunteer for hospice.