Annette King becomes a Dame in New Year Honours

Annette King has bowed out of politics on the highest possible note, after becoming a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours.

Dame Annette said she was "shocked and humbled to receive the honour" for services as a Member of Parliament.

"I never thought a girl from Murchison would end up in a position of being honoured by the Queen," Ms King told Newshub.

Dame Annette has been prolific in New Zealand politics for several decades, standing as MP for the Rongotai electorate in Wellington from 1996, until retiring this year. She was previously MP for Horowhenua from 1984-90 and Miramar from 1993-96.

After the 1999 election, she was appointed Minister of Health in the fifth Labour Government, later shifting to other portfolios, such as transport, police and justice from 2007. As Cabinet Minister, Dame Annette also held the portfolios of employment, immigration and youth affairs.

Over her long career, Dame Annette said the six years she spent as Health Minister "will always be the highlight".

Her pride in her work as Health Minister is understandable - she established the current District Health Board system, changed the Public Health and Disability Act, and worked to rebuild hospitals from Kaitaia to Invercargill, as well as taking decisive action on smoking and obesity.

Dame Annette may have retired, but don't expect her to disappear.

"I'll never be on the other side. I will be a Labour member until the day I die, now I just get to be a constructive critic from the sidelines."