New Zealand actor Sam Neill says he rejected a knighthood because the idea of a title was "just far too grand, by far".
His views were echoed by other well known figures, such as Maori activist and author Dr Ranginui Walker, who said there was "a certain snobbishness" attached to knighthoods.
Titular honours were abolished by the Labour-led Government in 1999, but Prime Minister John Key announced in March they would be reinstated.
Those made Principal or Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit (PCNZM or DCNZM) since 2000 could opt to be known as Sir or Dame, with the titles effective from today.
Of the 85 people invited to take up the titles, Neill and Dr Walker were among the 13 who declined, while Sir Colin Meads, Sir Peter Snell and Dame Jenny Shipley were among those who accepted.
Neill, who starred in films such as The Piano and Jurassic Park, said while he had nothing against the titles, and the alternative system was "somewhat confusing", he would not like to be known as "Sir".
"All modesty aside, I find the idea of a title for myself just too grand at this time of my life," he told NZPA.
Children's author Joy Cowley, who declined to become a Dame, said she did not want people start treating her differently because of a title.
"I've also got an honorary doctorate and I get embarrassed whenever that comes up on an envelope," she said. "I don't like anything that separates me from other people - I value my ordinariness ."
Potter Len Castle said the reinstatement of the title system did not reflect contemporary New Zealand society.
"I think the change that the prime minister made is a retrograde step and I see in it a regression to the hem of the royal petticoat."
Dr Walker said he was also disappointed that DCNZM was not given the credence it deserved.
"I didn't have any qualms about accepting the [DCNZM] because it's a New Zealand award and not tied to mother Britain or our imperial past."
Dr Walker had been scathing of knighthoods because of the wealthy businessmen who got them, such as Sir Michael Fay and Sir Roger Douglas.
"I felt that the knighthood system had been rather denigrated, or degraded," he said in March, when the changes were announced.
But Dame Margaret Shields, a former Labour Cabinet minister, said reintroducing knights and dames was an appropriate way to recognise achievements, in a way the DCNZM could not.
Dame Margaret received her title for her work supporting women's rights.
"One of my jobs was to take honour back to women, so I thought it was important for me to accept this honour. There is a feeling that it belongs to the community, not just to the individual."
Principal and Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit to be redesignated as Knights and Dames of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and the dates of their original appointments:
Principal Companion of the Order (PCNZM) to be redesignated as a Dame Grand Companion of the Order (GNZM):
Dame Malvina Lorraine Major, DBE, Christchurch, December 31 2007
Principal Companions of the Order (PCNZM) to be redesignated as Knights Grand Companion of the Order (GNZM):
Professor Paul Terence Callaghan, Wellington, December 31 2005
Emeritus Professor Lloyd George Geering, ONZ, CBE, Wellington, December 31 2000
Sir Patrick Ledger Goodman, CBE, Motueka, June 3 2002
Professor Ralph Heberley Ngatata Love, QSO, JP, Porirua, December 31 2008
Distinguished Companions of the Order (DCNZM) to be redesignated as Dames Companion of the Order (DNZM):
Emeritus Professor Judith Mary Caroline Binney, Auckland, December 31 2005
Dr (Vera) Doreen Blumhardt, ONZ, CBE, Wellington, December 31 2002
Professor Margaret Clark, CMG, JP, Wellington, December 30 2006
Christine McKelvie Cole Catley, QSM, North Shore, June 5 2006
Lynley Stuart Dodd, Tauranga, December 31 2001
Dr Mary Josephine (Joy) Drayton, MBE, Tauranga, 31 December 2004
Jocelyn Barbara Fish, CBE, JP, Hamilton, December 30 2000
Patricia Mary Harrison, QSO, Dunedin, June 4 2001
Grace Shellie Hollander, CBE, JP, Christchurch, June 5 2000
Professor Linda Jane Holloway, Dunedin, June 6 2005
Margaret Mary Millard, JP, Palmerston North, December 30 2001
Deirdre Glenna Milne, QSO, Auckland, December 31 2003
Lois Joan Muir, OBE, Dunedin, June 7 2004
Dr Claudia Josepha Orange, OBE, Wellington, December 31 2008
Alison Burns Quentin-Baxter, QSO, Wellington, June 4 2007
Alison Mary Roxburgh, CBE, QSO, JP, Nelson, June 2 2003
Margaret Kerslake Shields, QSO, JP, Pukerua Bay, December 31 2007
Jennifer Mary Shipley, Auckland, December 31 2002
Dr Margaret June Sparrow, MBE, Wellington, June 3 2002
Sukhinder Kaur Turner, Wanaka, June 3 2002
Robin Adair White, Masterton, June 2 2003
Gillian Karawe Whitehead, Alexandra, June 2 2008
* (Isoleen) Heather Begg, OBE, Ashfield, New South Wales, was redesignated from DCNZM to DNZM on April 17 2009 due to her ill health. She died on May 12. KNZM
Distinguished Companions of the Order (DCNZM) to be redesignated as Knights Companion of the Order (KNZM):
Noel Crossley Anderson, QC, Waitakere, June 7 2004
Professor Donald Ward Beaven, CBE, Christchurch, December 31 2004
Peter Blanchard, Wellington, December 31 2004
Judge David James Carruthers, Paraparaumu Beach, June 6 2005
Russell Coutts, CBE, San Diego, USA, June 5 2000
Edward Taihakurei Junior Durie, Lower Hutt, December 31 2007
Eion Sinclair Edgar, Queenstown, June 2 2003
Air Marshal Bruce Reid Ferguson, OBE, AFC, RNZAF (Rtd), Wellington, June 5 2006
George Vjeceslav Fistonich, Auckland, June 6 2005
Dr Alan Russell Frampton, Auckland, December 31 2004
Harawira Tiri Gardiner, Wellington, June 2 2008
David Rendel Kingston Gascoigne, CBE, Wellington, December 31 2005
Thomas Munro Gault, Auckland, December 30 2000
Professor Peter David Gluckman, Auckland, December 31 2007
John Packard Goulter, JP, Paihia, December 31 2003
John William Hansen, Rangiora, June 2 2008
John Steele Henry, QC, Auckland, June 4 2001
Professor Vaughan Frederick Randal Jones, Auckland, June 3 2002
Douglas Lorimer Kidd, Wellington, June 5 2000
Patrick Desmond Mahony, Wellington, December 31 2003
Peter Charles Maire, North Shore, June 2 2008
Professor Alan Francis Mark, CBE, Dunedin, December 30 2000
Emeritus Professor (Arthur) Harold Marshall, Auckland, June 2 2008
David Charles Mauger, Auckland, June 3 2002
John Joseph McGrath, QC, Wellington, December 30 2006
Dr Sidney Moko Mead, Wellington, June 5 2006
Colin Earl Meads, MBE, Te Kuiti, December 30 2000
Ralph James Norris, Sydney, December 31 2005
Noel Stuart Robinson, Auckland, June 5 2006
Peter Graham Siddell, QSO, Auckland, December 31 2007
Professor David Christopher Graham Skegg, OBE, Dunedin, December 31 2008
Bruce Houlton Slane, CBE, Auckland, December 31 2002
Dr Peter George Snell, OBE, Dallas, USA, December 31 2001
Kenneth Allen Stevens, Auckland, December 31 2007
Archie John Te Atawai Taiaroa, Taumarunui, June 2 2003
Tumu Te Heuheu, Taupo, December 31 2004
Edmund Walter Thomas, QC, Auckland, December 31 2001
Stephen Robert Tindall, North Shore, June 4 2007
Andrew Patrick Charles Tipping, Wellington, December 31 2005
Peter John Trapski, CBE, Tauranga, December 31 2002
Henry William van der Heyden, Putaruru, June 4 2007
John Wells, Auckland, December 31 2008
Tennant Edward (Tay) Wilson, OBE, Lower Hutt, December 30 2006
William Gillow Gibbes Austen Young, Christchurch, June 4 2007
Spouses of deceased Principal and Distinguished Companions of the Order to be granted the use of the courtesy title of "Lady":
Olive Doreen Hutchins, Queenstown, spouse of the late Leslie Hutchins, DCNZM, OBE
Elaine Ivy James, Hamilton, spouse of the late Oswald George James, DCNZM, OBE
Doris Parekohe Vercoe, QSM, Rotorua, spouse of the late Right Reverend Te Whakahuihui Vercoe, PCNZM, MBE.
STAYING THE SAME Those who have elected to remain as Principal and Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit:
Sir Ivor Lloyd Richardson, PCNZM, Knight Bachelor, Wellington
Dame Silvia Rose Cartwright, PCNZM, DBE, QSO, resident overseas
Leonard Ramsey Castle, DCNZM, Auckland
Associate Professor Witi Ihimaera-Smiler, DCNZM, QSM, Auckland
Nigel (Sam) Neill, DCNZM, OBE, Queenstown
Professor Vincent O'Sullivan, DCNZM, Wellington
Dr Ranginui Walker, DCNZM, Auckland
Cassia Joy Cowley, DCNZM, OBE, Wellington
Dr Patricia Grace, DCNZM, QSO, Mana
Sister Patricia Mary Hook, DCNZM, Hamilton
The Rt Rev Dr Penelope Ann Jamieson, DCNZM, Lower Hutt
Sister Pauline Margaret O'Regan, DCNZM, CBE, Christchurch
Margaret Wilson, DCNZM, Tauranga.