5 Jun 2017

'It's quite a handle isn't it' - John Key on knighthood

10:37 am on 5 June 2017

John Key says he's humbled to receive the highest accolade in the Queen's Birthday honours list.

Mr Key, who was Prime Minister for eight years before stepping down late last year has been made a Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the state.

Speaking to RNZ's Megan Whelan about the honour, he said he thought the reality was that he would "pretty much remain as John".

"It's quite a handle, isn't it ... you can just call me John and that will make life a lot easier."

One of 186 people on this year's honours list, he has been recognised for his achievements during a 14-year political career, which began when he was elected MP for Helensville in 2002.

John Key in a media scrum

Sir John: "I'm sure people will just stick to calling me John" Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Sir John said his political career since then would not have been possible without the support of his colleagues and the public.

"It was only made possible because I had such an outstanding cabinet and caucus.

"And over time, millions of New Zealanders voted for my government and gave me the opportunity to do that, and I hope that in some very small way today they all can sort of feel they share in that a little bit."

He was humbled to receive the honour but joked he was unlikely to get used to people calling him Sir John.

"When I was Prime Minister, I would've thought people would have found me pretty approachable ... I guess as the selfie and photograph era emerged, and people started taking photos.

"For the most part, even though there was the title then - The Right Honourable John Key - people would just bowl up and call me John.

There will be a little bit [of Sir John] on formal occasions, but for the most part I'm sure people will just stick to calling me John."

Sir John said life since leaving Parliament has been different, but he'd not been putting his feet up.

"Everyone says I'm looking younger - I take that as a compliment.

"It's a different pace of life but it's still been remarkably busy, and I'm doing lots of different things - quite a bit of stuff internationally."

He still kept in contact with Prime Minister Bill English and believed he was doing a good job in the role.

* Read the full Honours List here