Back to top anchor

The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration


The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration has been instituted as a New Zealand Royal Honour to recognise distinguished military service, by regular, territorial and reserve members of the New Zealand Defence Force, including command and leadership and service in an operational environment, or in support of operations. Until 1995 this type of service was recognised by awards of the British Empire Medal (Military Division), the lower levels of the Military Order of the British Empire. Since the change to a totally New Zealand Honours system in 1996, these British awards have not been available to New Zealand military personnel.


The Decoration may be awarded to all military ranks of the New Zealand Defence Force, or uniformed members of allied forces operating with or alongside units of the New Zealand Defence Force. The Decoration may be awarded for the outstanding performance of military duties in either warlike or non-warlike operations and for individual efforts toward peacetime and humanitarian service which brings great credit to the New Zealand Defence Force and contributes significantly, through exceptional devotion to duty, dedication, judgement or application of skills to one or more of the following:

  1. the conduct of an operational deployment;
  2. the conduct of military training or a military operation or operations; and
  3. the management and implementation of a project or activity with significant implications for the current or future capability of the New Zealand Defence Force.

The Distinguished Service Decoration also may be awarded for a singular accomplishment or instance of extraordinary performance of duty, or be awarded for superior cumulative efforts over a sustained period of time.


The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration ranks as a sixth level award and takes precedence immediately following The New Zealand Antarctic Medal. Recipients may use the letters “DSD” after their name.

See the Order of Wear for The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration.

Royal warrant and regulations

Click here to see the Royal warrant and regulations for this Decoration.

Design and manufacture

The Decoration is made of Sterling Silver. The obverse design is a representation of eight blades of a Kotiate (lobed club) in a circle with a St Edward’s Crown (Royal Crown) in the centre. The front four blades are frosted silver, the rear blades are polished silver. The reverse bears the inscriptions “FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE” and “MO NGA TE MAHI KAHURANGI”.

The ribbon is Blue and Red, with two narrow Yellow stripes that signify ‘achievement’. Red and Blue are traditional military colours and have been used for medal ribbons since the first Military General Service Medal (1793 - 1814), the Waterloo Medal (1815) and the (British) Distinguished Service Order.

A Kotiate or “liver cutter” is a lobed, or fiddle-shaped, war club made of hard wood or bone, the blades of which may be plain or decoratively carved. This type of club was used as both a weapon and an item of personal adornment. In addition, it was used to reflect status, rank, authority, pride, mana or ceremonial importance, similar to the use of military swords.

The design of the Decoration is the work of the New Zealand Herald of Arms.

The Decoration is manufactured by Eng Leong Medallic Industries Pte Ltd, of Singapore, who also manufacture The New Zealand Antarctic Medal and many of the campaign and special service medals for the New Zealand Defence Force.

Other issues


The holder of The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration, who performs further services worthy of another award, may be awarded a Bar to their Decoration.

Posthumous Awards

The Decoration may be awarded posthumously.

Announcement of Awards

Awards of The New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration will normally be announced in the regular New Year and King’s Birthday Honours Lists.

Naming of Awards

The recipient’s name and date of the award are engraved on the reverse of the Decoration between the two inscriptions.

Lapel badge

A distinctive lapel badge, for everyday wear, is issued to living recipients. This is in line with the Lapel Badges policy adopted for the various other distinctive New Zealand honours.


Each award is accompanied by a certificate signed by The King and Governor-General.

Last updated: 
Monday, 14 November 2022

Help us improve DPMC

Your feedback is very important in helping us improve the DPMC website.