John Key has received the highest accolade in the Queen's Birthday honours list announced today.
Mr Key, who was prime minister for eight years, has been made a Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the state.
This year's honours list includes 186 people, of whom 108 have been recognised in the New Zealand Order of Merit honours list. Seventy two were awarded under the Queen's Service Order, five received the New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration and one received the New Zealand Antarctic Medal.
The majority of honours recognised services to the community and volunteer work.
The Right Honourable Sir John Key has been recognised for his achievements during a 14-year political career that began when he was elected the Member of Parliament for Helensville in 2002.
The knighthood marks his leadership of a series of actions, including the government response to the global financial crisis, and major disasters such as the February 2011 Canterbury earthquake.
Sir John heads the Order of Merit table, which also includes Dame Julie Christie for services to television and governance, and Dame Peggy Koopman-Boyden for services to seniors.
New Zealand adventurer Graeme Dingle has been knighted for his services to youth, Michael Jones for services to the Pacific community and youth and Timoti Karetu for services to Māori language.
Dame Julie Christie was founder and chief executive of international television production company Touchdown from 1991until 2013, exporting programmes and licensing intellectual property to 30 countries.
She was a member of the organising board of the Rugby World Cup 2011 and has been a member of the New Zealand Rugby Union commercial committee since 2012.
She told RNZ she was proud to have been made a Dame and knew it would have also made her parents proud.
The former board member of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, who is now part of a group working with the government's export business growth agenda, was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2007 for her services to film and television.
Dame Julie said she was not sure what bearing the new title would have overseas.
"I don't think I'll be using it that much...I don't actually know because it's never happened to me before. To me, it's an accolade - I guess it's a thanks for the work I've done on some of the boards and for a long television career."
Dame Julie plans to celebrate at home today with family and close friends.
Dame Peggy Koopman-Boyden has given more than 45 years of service to research and policy advice relating to New Zealand's older population.
She led major research projects for the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology during the 1990s and 2000s and recently completed a multi-year programme of research on active ageing.
Sir Timoti Karetu is the current chair of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust. He helped set up Te Panekiretanga o te Reo, the Institute of Excellence in Māori Language, which provides the most advanced Māori language academic course for adult students across New Zealand.
Sir Graeme Dingle said being knighted was bigger than anything he had ever done before. He established New Zealand's first Outdoor Pursuits Centre in 1972, now known as Hillary Outdoors, and the Dingle Foundation where he continues to serve.
He said being knighted was a huge surprise, but it would not change him.
"One just has to live your life as honestly as you can, and not let any ideas of grandeur go to your head," Sir Graeme said.
The knighthood followed Sir Graeme being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2001 New Year's honours list, and a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1988.
Michael Jones, who is also a flag bearer for the Pacific Island community in New Zealand, has gained a knighthood for his services to the Pacific community and to youth.
Sir Michael said he intended to honour the appointment with the same pride and respect he had for the All Blacks jersey he once wore.
"You get privileged with a platform and a position of influence, and I've always realised I have to take that seriously and be a good steward of that. It's probably the greatest gift rugby gave me and I'd love to be able to use that mandate, or that honour, to hopefully make even more of a contribution," he said.
Former Labour Party president Jim Anderton, who retired from politics in 2011, has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services as a Member of Parliament.
Mr Anderton began his political career as a member of the Manukau City Council in 1965, served a term from 1977 on the Auckland Regional Authority and served as President of the Labour Party from 1979 to 1984.
Police also recognised
Two police officers have also been recognised in the honours list for their commitment to Māori and ethnic communities, and crime prevention.
Assistant Commissioner Wally Haumaha will become an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit and Inspector Karen Henrikson will become a member of the order.
Police said Mr Haumaha had lead the police's partnerships with ethnically diverse communities.
He was responsible for working out ways to reduce the number of Māori in prisons and creating the first memorandum of understanding between police and 14 major iwi groups in Bay of Plenty.
Inspector Henrikson was the first woman to be promoted to inspector rank in the Waikato District and police said she had championed women in the force.