7 Apr 2009

46 say yes to being a sir or a dame

11:58 am on 7 April 2009

Most of the New Zealanders eligible to become sirs or dames under the reformed honours system are happy to take up the titles.

The Government has re-introduced the traditional titles in time for the Queen's Birthday honours list, and has offered them to previous recipients of the two highest levels of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Prime Minister John Key says that 46 of the 85 people given the opportunity to take up the titles have said yes and seven have said no.

He says he doesn't know the names of those who have accepted, but the list will be published at some point.

Radio New Zealand spoke to several of those eligible to receive titles.

Villa Maria managing director George Fistonich has chosen to become Sir George, saying his family and colleagues in the industry advised him the recognition would be good for the export industry and the Croation community.

Another who will take a title is Wira Gardiner, who worked in the public service for 12 years, including as the founding chief executive officer of the Ministry of Maori Development.

Other distinguished companions who have said yes to the title include the Olympic athlete Peter Snell, and renowned doctor Margaret Sparrow.

Dr Ranginui Walker has decided to decline, saying the honours system has been debased by political patronage. He says his family and supporters already give him the respect he has earned.

Those still undecided include All Blacks legend Colin Meads, chief district court judge David Carruthers and The Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall.