Dame Patsy Reddy has been confirmed as the new Governor-General who will take over after Sir Jerry Mateparae's term ends later this year.
Prime Minister John Key made the appointment official this morning after reports in the media.
Dame Patsy will take over the job from September 14 this year.
"I am delighted Dame Patsy accepted the role," says Mr Key.
"She is a passionate New Zealander, a well-respected businesswoman and a staunch supporter of our creative sector. She is thoughtful, articulate and has a brilliant legal mind. I am sure New Zealanders will be proud to have her as our Governor-General."
She said she was "stunned" when she was offered the job.
"I asked 'why me?' This was not a role I ever imagined I might hold. I've always admired the stature and the fine legacies of our Governors General, but their previous careers have been largely dedicated to the public service.
"Frankly, I don't really fit this mould."
Dame Patsy, a lawyer, has held a number of senior positions, including law lecturer at Victoria University and chair of the Film Commission, and most recently worked with Sir Michael Cullen on the review of New Zealand's intelligence agencies.
She was also Chief Crown negotiator for Treaty settlements, and Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Transport Agency.
Her appointment makes her the third woman to hold the position alongside Dame Catherine Tizard and Dame Silvia Cartwright.
Mr Key says Dame Patsy's appointment sends a strong message about the country valuing women in leadership roles.
"I think it's aspirational for young New Zealand women. We've had two men in the role and my first preference was to have a woman and also the skills that person could bring to the job."
Yesterday, Mr Key teased the announcement at his post-Cabinet news conference.
"You might find out sooner than you think -- possibly this week," he said.
His preference wasn't to name a former politician for the role, which ruled out a number of high-profile people including Dame Jenny Shipley, Jim Bolger and Sir Don McKinnon.
Sir Jerry, a former head of the Defence Force, ends his five-year term on August 31.
The Governor-General is Queen Elizabeth II's personal representative in New Zealand.