Throughout her first year in Government, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had a small but difficult decision that she has been unwilling or unable to make.
Should a man who was once one of the most influential and celebrated figures in Māoridom, who was honoured for his services to Māori, be stripped of his knighthood?
Although difficult, Ardern’s refusal to deal with the issue of Sir Ngātata Love’s knighthood may hurt the credibility of the honours system in general.
At a minimum, Ardern’s credibility will be in question if she takes a position on any call to revoke a knighthood in the future.
Her refusal to decide has been a de facto decision that he keeps the knighthood.
“It has been very rare for honours to be cancelled,” Key said in 2013. “In those cases where it has occurred, it has often been because the actions that led to the cancellation were in the same area as that for which the original honour was awarded.”
If that was the test, then Love, who was knighted for services to Māori and then convicted of defrauding his iwi, would appear to meet it.
I think that is a fair test – was the action in the same area as the original honour. And in this case it was, and so Love should have lost his knighthood.
Instead it appears that it was simply a difficult and sensitive decision which the Prime Minister could not bring herself to make.
In an age of heightened accountability for our mistakes, Ardern may come to regret her inaction.
It means she has set the bar so low, it is now nearly impossible for her to remove an honour from someone.
But Love was convicted of defrauding his own people, was sent to jail and refused to accept wrongdoing or apologise to his victims.
If that does not meet the test of whether someone should lose their knighthood, it is hard to imagine how Ardern will mount a case for someone else to.
So much for a Government of high standards.