Aotearoa is about to learn who’s made the cut for the latest New Year honours list – but who decides which person gets what honour?

Dozens of New Zealanders are poised to earn a spot on the New Year honours list tomorrow.

That list is made up of people who have served and achieved in various fields.

But how does someone end up on that list?

Nominating a worthy candidate

Anyone can nominate anyone for an honour in New Zealand. However, you can’t nominate yourself, just in case you were thinking about that for next year.

People wanting to nominate a worthy candidate must complete a nomination form, explaining how that person’s contributions or achievements have made an impact locally, nationally, or internationally.

The nomination needs to detail how that person’s impacts stand out from those of their peers or go above and beyond what someone might do as part of their job.

A nomination also requires at least two letters of support from people other than the person doing the nominating.

The nomination is then sent to the Honours Unit, which is within the Cabinet Office.

People can put in a nomination at any time, where it will be assigned to the next available honours list consideration. New Zealand usually has two honours lists each year – one at King’s Birthday and the other at the New Year.

Approximately 800 to 1000 nominations are considered each year, according to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC). Up to around 400 honours are then granted each year across the two honours lists.

Decision time

The final honours lists are approved by King Charles III, on advice from the Prime Minister. But there is a bit of work involved getting to that stage.

The people who have nominated someone will get a letter telling them which honours list their nominee is being considered for, but after that, there is no more communication. People need to wait until that honours list is released to find out if their nominee was included.

The Honours Unit writes up a short citation on each nominee based on the information given to them in the application.

Those citations are then presented to the Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister who makes the final call on who will be recommended for an honour and what level of honour they get.

Before the final honours lists are compiled, successful nominees are then asked by the Governor-General whether they want to accept the honour.

People do decline honours, including our current deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, who once claimed to have turned down a knighthood.

This step of accepting the honour is why you can’t nominate someone who has died for a posthumous New Year or King’s Birthday honour.

The person must indicate they accept the honour, which a dead person can’t do for obvious reasons. However, if informal approval has been given by the King and a nominee has agreed to accept an honour before they die, their award will stand, according to the DPMC.

New Zealand’s latest honours list is due to be released early tomorrow.