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The New Zealand Antarctic Medal


To nominate someone for The New Zealand Antarctic Medal, see ‘The New Zealand Antarctic Medal: Nomination guidelines’.

You will need to complete a nomination form.


The New Zealand Antarctic Medal may be awarded to "those New Zealanders and other persons who either individually or as members of a New Zealand programme in the Antarctic region have made an outstanding contribution to exploration, scientific research, conservation, environmental protection, or knowledge of the Antarctic region; or in support of New Zealand’s objectives or operations, or both, in the Antarctic region".

The Medal is not awarded for acts of bravery, for short-term acts of extreme endurance, for long service, or for service in Antarctica generally.

For more information about eligibility, see the Royal Warrant (The New Zealand Antarctic Medal, SR 2006/278) and the associated Regulations (The New Zealand Antarctic Medal Regulations 2006, SR 2006/279) at

See the list of all recipients of The New Zealand Antarctic Medal since 2006.

The most recent awards of the New Zealand Antarctic Medal were to Dr Ian Hawes (science and conservation) and Mr Nigel Watson (heritage preservation).


A holder of The New Zealand Antarctic Medal, who performs further services worthy of another award, may be awarded a Bar to their medal. No bars have been awarded to date.


Awards of The New Zealand Antarctic Medal are usually made as part of the regular New Year or King’s Birthday Honours Lists. Awards may also be made as part of a Special Honours List. The Honours Lists are published by the Honours Unit here on the DPMC website.


The New Zealand Antarctic Medal was instituted as a New Zealand Royal Honour on 1 September 2006.

The New Zealand Antarctic Medal replaced the (British) Polar Medal, which was instituted in 1904 under a British Royal Warrant and awarded to those who had made notable contributions to the exploration and knowledge of Polar Regions and “who, in so doing, have undergone the hazards and rigours imposed by the Polar environment to life and movement, whether by land, sea or air”.

The place of the Polar Medal was considered in the comprehensive 1995 review of the New Zealand Royal Honours system. The Prime Minister’s Honours Advisory Committee recommended that the Polar Medal should be retained and constituted under a New Zealand Royal Warrant, and consideration should be given to renaming the award “The Antarctic Medal” to reflect the fact that it is in relation to Antarctica that New Zealand’s endeavours and achievements have been made. The committee noted that “New Zealand has had a long and close association with every aspect of Antarctic exploration and research. Although the emphasis has changed from the heroism of exploration to scientific research and protection of its fauna and flora, Antarctica is still a place of special challenge.”

Following consultation with interested groups, The New Zealand Antarctic Medal was formally instituted by Queen Elizabeth II on 1 September 2006.


The New Zealand Antarctic Medal ranks as a sixth-level award and takes precedence immediately following the Queen’s Service Medal in the order of wear.

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Composite of obverse and reverse of the New Zealand Antarctic Medal on ribbon
The New Zealand Antarctic Medal is struck in sterling silver and retains the famous octagonal shape and white ribbon of the Polar Medal.

The obverse (front) design bears the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Ian Rank-Broadley (of the United Kingdom), which is the same effigy used on the New Zealand Gallantry and Bravery Awards. The obverse also bears the inscription Elizabeth II Queen of New Zealand.

The reverse (back) design shows a group of four Emperor Penguins on an Antarctic landscape with Mt Erebus in the background.

The recipient’s full name, and the date of award (the date of announcement), are engraved on the rim of the medal.

The New Zealand Antarctic Medal was designed by the New Zealand Herald of Arms.

A lapel badge, which is designed for everyday wear, is issued to living recipients.

The New Zealand Antarctic Medal is currently manufactured by Eng Leong Medallic Industries Pte Ltd (of Singapore). This company also makes many of the campaign and special service medals for the New Zealand Defence Force, as well as The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration.

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Information for recipients

As soon as your award is announced, you can start using your post-nominals. The Honours Unit will mail you a lapel badge for everyday wear. You will also be given the option of purchasing a miniature of the medal.

You will receive your full-size medal at an investiture, which is usually held several months after the award is announced.

At the investiture, you will also receive a certificate signed by The King and the Governor-General.


Recipients may use the letters (post-nominals) “NZAM” after their name.

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Last updated: 
Saturday, 31 December 2022

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