WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Former Prime Minister John Key and former All Black rugby player Michael Jones received honorary knighthoods Monday for their services to New Zealand.
Key and Jones were among dozens of New Zealanders to receive a range of honours from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. The honours hark to the days when New Zealand was a British colony.
Key, 55, stepped down as prime minister in December after winning three consecutive elections. He was cited by the Queen for his leadership following the 2008 global financial crisis and the deadly Christchurch earthquake in 2011.
Key was also credited with completing treaty settlements with indigenous Maori and forging a closer relationship with the United States.
As prime minister in 2009, he had announced the nation was restoring the titles “Sir” and “Dame” which come with the top honours. The previous government had dropped them in 2000 in what some saw as a move toward becoming a republic rather than remaining a constitutional monarchy with the queen as head of state.
“Incredibly humbled to receive this honour,” Key tweeted. “Thank you for all the kind messages of support I’ve received. It was a privilege to be PM of NZ.”
Jones, 52, was honoured for his work with Pacific people. He founded a trust which grew from a drop-in centre aimed at keeping youth out of gangs. He launched a sporting academy and championed mentoring programmes aimed at encouraging Pacific students to stay in school. He also helped collect and distribute emergency supplies to people in Samoa and Tonga after a 2009 tsunami.
Jones played 55 test matches for the All Blacks between 1987 and 1998.
Others to receive top honours for their services to New Zealand included Julie Christie (broadcasting), Peggy Koopman-Boyden (seniors), Graeme Dingle (youth) and Timoti Karetu (Maori language).