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Sir "too grand by far", Sam Neill says

Saturday 1 Aug 2009 9:22 a.m.

Neill rejected his title, saying he thought the title was

Neill rejected his title, saying he thought the title was "too grand"

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New Zealand actor Sam Neill says he rejected a knighthood because the idea of a title was "just far too grand, by far".

His views were echoed by other well known figures, such as Maori activist and author Dr Ranginui Walker, who said there was "a certain snobbishness" attached to knighthoods.

Titular honours were abolished by the Labour-led Government in 1999, but Prime Minister John Key announced in March they would be reinstated.

Those made Principal or Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit (PCNZM or DCNZM) since 2000 could opt to be known as Sir or Dame, with the titles effective from today.

Of the 85 people invited to take up the titles, Neill and Dr Walker were among the 13 who declined, while Sir Colin Meads, Sir Peter Snell and Dame Jenny Shipley were among those who accepted.

Neill, who starred in films such as The Piano and Jurassic Park, said while he had nothing against the titles, and the alternative system was "somewhat confusing", he would not like to be known as "Sir".

"All modesty aside, I find the idea of a title for myself just too grand at this time of my life," he told NZPA.

Children's author Joy Cowley, who declined to become a Dame, said she did not want people start treating her differently because of a title.

"I've also got an honorary doctorate and I get embarrassed whenever that comes up on an envelope," she said. "I don't like anything that separates me from other people - I value my ordinariness ."

Potter Len Castle said the reinstatement of the title system did not reflect contemporary New Zealand society.

"I think the change that the prime minister made is a retrograde step and I see in it a regression to the hem of the royal petticoat."

Dr Walker said he was also disappointed that DCNZM was not given the credence it deserved.

"I didn't have any qualms about accepting the [DCNZM] because it's a New Zealand award and not tied to mother Britain or our imperial past."

Dr Walker had been scathing of knighthoods because of the wealthy businessmen who got them, such as Sir Michael Fay and Sir Roger Douglas.

"I felt that the knighthood system had been rather denigrated, or degraded," he said in March, when the changes were announced.

But Dame Margaret Shields, a former Labour Cabinet minister, said reintroducing knights and dames was an appropriate way to recognise achievements, in a way the DCNZM could not.

Dame Margaret received her title for her work supporting women's rights.

"One of my jobs was to take honour back to women, so I thought it was important for me to accept this honour. There is a feeling that it belongs to the community, not just to the individual."

Principal and Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit to be redesignated as Knights and Dames of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and the dates of their original appointments:


Principal Companion of the Order (PCNZM) to be redesignated as a Dame Grand Companion of the Order (GNZM):

Dame Malvina Lorraine Major, DBE, Christchurch, December 31 2007

Principal Companions of the Order (PCNZM) to be redesignated as Knights Grand Companion of the Order (GNZM):

Professor Paul Terence Callaghan, Wellington, December 31 2005

Emeritus Professor Lloyd George Geering, ONZ, CBE, Wellington, December 31 2000

Sir Patrick Ledger Goodman, CBE, Motueka, June 3 2002

Professor Ralph Heberley Ngatata Love, QSO, JP, Porirua, December 31 2008


Distinguished Companions of the Order (DCNZM) to be redesignated as Dames Companion of the Order (DNZM):

Emeritus Professor Judith Mary Caroline Binney, Auckland, December 31 2005

Dr (Vera) Doreen Blumhardt, ONZ, CBE, Wellington, December 31 2002

Professor Margaret Clark, CMG, JP, Wellington, December 30 2006

Christine McKelvie Cole Catley, QSM, North Shore, June 5 2006

Lynley Stuart Dodd, Tauranga, December 31 2001

Dr Mary Josephine (Joy) Drayton, MBE, Tauranga, 31 December 2004

Jocelyn Barbara Fish, CBE, JP, Hamilton, December 30 2000

Patricia Mary Harrison, QSO, Dunedin, June 4 2001

Grace Shellie Hollander, CBE, JP, Christchurch, June 5 2000

Professor Linda Jane Holloway, Dunedin, June 6 2005

Margaret Mary Millard, JP, Palmerston North, December 30 2001

Deirdre Glenna Milne, QSO, Auckland, December 31 2003

Lois Joan Muir, OBE, Dunedin, June 7 2004

Dr Claudia Josepha Orange, OBE, Wellington, December 31 2008

Alison Burns Quentin-Baxter, QSO, Wellington, June 4 2007

Alison Mary Roxburgh, CBE, QSO, JP, Nelson, June 2 2003

Margaret Kerslake Shields, QSO, JP, Pukerua Bay, December 31 2007

Jennifer Mary Shipley, Auckland, December 31 2002

Dr Margaret June Sparrow, MBE, Wellington, June 3 2002

Sukhinder Kaur Turner, Wanaka, June 3 2002

Robin Adair White, Masterton, June 2 2003

Gillian Karawe Whitehead, Alexandra, June 2 2008

* (Isoleen) Heather Begg, OBE, Ashfield, New South Wales, was redesignated from DCNZM to DNZM on April 17 2009 due to her ill health. She died on May 12. KNZM

Distinguished Companions of the Order (DCNZM) to be redesignated as Knights Companion of the Order (KNZM):

Noel Crossley Anderson, QC, Waitakere, June 7 2004

Professor Donald Ward Beaven, CBE, Christchurch, December 31 2004

Peter Blanchard, Wellington, December 31 2004

Judge David James Carruthers, Paraparaumu Beach, June 6 2005

Russell Coutts, CBE, San Diego, USA, June 5 2000

Edward Taihakurei Junior Durie, Lower Hutt, December 31 2007

Eion Sinclair Edgar, Queenstown, June 2 2003

Air Marshal Bruce Reid Ferguson, OBE, AFC, RNZAF (Rtd), Wellington, June 5 2006

George Vjeceslav Fistonich, Auckland, June 6 2005

Dr Alan Russell Frampton, Auckland, December 31 2004

Harawira Tiri Gardiner, Wellington, June 2 2008

David Rendel Kingston Gascoigne, CBE, Wellington, December 31 2005

Thomas Munro Gault, Auckland, December 30 2000

Professor Peter David Gluckman, Auckland, December 31 2007

John Packard Goulter, JP, Paihia, December 31 2003

John William Hansen, Rangiora, June 2 2008

John Steele Henry, QC, Auckland, June 4 2001

Professor Vaughan Frederick Randal Jones, Auckland, June 3 2002

Douglas Lorimer Kidd, Wellington, June 5 2000

Patrick Desmond Mahony, Wellington, December 31 2003

Peter Charles Maire, North Shore, June 2 2008

Professor Alan Francis Mark, CBE, Dunedin, December 30 2000

Emeritus Professor (Arthur) Harold Marshall, Auckland, June 2 2008

David Charles Mauger, Auckland, June 3 2002

John Joseph McGrath, QC, Wellington, December 30 2006

Dr Sidney Moko Mead, Wellington, June 5 2006

Colin Earl Meads, MBE, Te Kuiti, December 30 2000

Ralph James Norris, Sydney, December 31 2005

Noel Stuart Robinson, Auckland, June 5 2006

Peter Graham Siddell, QSO, Auckland, December 31 2007

Professor David Christopher Graham Skegg, OBE, Dunedin, December 31 2008

Bruce Houlton Slane, CBE, Auckland, December 31 2002

Dr Peter George Snell, OBE, Dallas, USA, December 31 2001

Kenneth Allen Stevens, Auckland, December 31 2007

Archie John Te Atawai Taiaroa, Taumarunui, June 2 2003

Tumu Te Heuheu, Taupo, December 31 2004

Edmund Walter Thomas, QC, Auckland, December 31 2001

Stephen Robert Tindall, North Shore, June 4 2007

Andrew Patrick Charles Tipping, Wellington, December 31 2005

Peter John Trapski, CBE, Tauranga, December 31 2002

Henry William van der Heyden, Putaruru, June 4 2007

John Wells, Auckland, December 31 2008

Tennant Edward (Tay) Wilson, OBE, Lower Hutt, December 30 2006

William Gillow Gibbes Austen Young, Christchurch, June 4 2007


Spouses of deceased Principal and Distinguished Companions of the Order to be granted the use of the courtesy title of "Lady":

Olive Doreen Hutchins, Queenstown, spouse of the late Leslie Hutchins, DCNZM, OBE

Elaine Ivy James, Hamilton, spouse of the late Oswald George James, DCNZM, OBE

Doris Parekohe Vercoe, QSM, Rotorua, spouse of the late Right Reverend Te Whakahuihui Vercoe, PCNZM, MBE.

STAYING THE SAME Those who have elected to remain as Principal and Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

Sir Ivor Lloyd Richardson, PCNZM, Knight Bachelor, Wellington

Dame Silvia Rose Cartwright, PCNZM, DBE, QSO, resident overseas

Leonard Ramsey Castle, DCNZM, Auckland

Associate Professor Witi Ihimaera-Smiler, DCNZM, QSM, Auckland

Nigel (Sam) Neill, DCNZM, OBE, Queenstown

Professor Vincent O'Sullivan, DCNZM, Wellington

Dr Ranginui Walker, DCNZM, Auckland

Cassia Joy Cowley, DCNZM, OBE, Wellington

Dr Patricia Grace, DCNZM, QSO, Mana

Sister Patricia Mary Hook, DCNZM, Hamilton

The Rt Rev Dr Penelope Ann Jamieson, DCNZM, Lower Hutt

Sister Pauline Margaret O'Regan, DCNZM, CBE, Christchurch

Margaret Wilson, DCNZM, Tauranga.
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