The New Zealand Gallantry Awards recognise those military, and certain other categories of support personnel, who perform acts of gallantry while involved in war and warlike operational service (including peacekeeping).
The New Zealand Bravery Awards recognise the actions of those persons who save or attempt to save the life of another person and in the course of which they place their own safety or life at risk.
The 1995 Prime Minister’s Honours Advisory Committee recommended the discontinuance of British awards for acts of gallantry and bravery until then conferred on New Zealanders in times of war and peace and the institution of a series of distinctive New Zealand awards. The committee proposed that the Victoria Cross (VC) should remain New Zealand's highest award for acts of gallantry in war and war-like operations but should be constituted under a New Zealand Royal Warrant. The committee also recommended that the premier award for acts of bravery should be a new New Zealand Cross (NZC).
In 1999 Queen Elizabeth II formally instituted the new range of gallantry and bravery awards. There are two categories each with four levels.
The inaugural awards of the New Zealand Gallantry and Bravery Awards, including two awards of the New Zealand Cross, were announced in a Special Honours List on 23 October 1999. The awards were formally launched before the first investiture at Government House, Wellington, on 7 March 2000.