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New Zealand Scraps British Titles

April 10, 2000

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ New Zealand put knighthoods to the sword Monday, scrapping the use of the titles ``Sir″ and ``Dame″ in favor of a local system of honors.

But mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and opera diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will retain their titles _ the new measure does not strip current holders of their honors.

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Monday that her Labor-led coalition was scrapping the use of the titles ``Sir″ and ``Dame,″ breaking a tradition of New Zealand’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, bestowing the titles.

Clark said the queen ``approved the recommendation of the government to discontinue″ the use of sir and dame in the country’s honors system.

Most New Zealanders favor a distinctive New Zealand system, with awards based on merit, rather than being recognized by the government _ although government recommendations for those to be named knights or dames also was based on public consultation.

The decision to scrap the titles will take effect before the queen’s birthday honors list is announced in June.

``All current knights and dames ... will retain their existing titles,″ Clark said.

Under the new system, the top honor will be the Order of New Zealand, which can only be held by 20 living people at any one time. The honor entitles the holder to put the letters ONZ after his or her name but does not carry a title.

Although the government’s decision merely implements the findings of a 1995 multiparty committee, political opponents immediately attacked it.

ACT Party leader Richard Prebble said knighthoods had been part of the country’s tradition since its founding in 1840.

``The real motivation is an ideological hatred of the country honoring success ... (and) another sign that the coalition government has a secret agenda to rewrite the constitution and to reject the nation’s Westminster traditions,″ said Prebble.

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