Celebrity arsonist John Dingler was today confirmed as a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Sir John says it was a surprise to be given the honour.
"Honestly, it never occurred to me that my efforts burning down buildings and destroying livelihoods would lead to this," said Sir John.
Sir John's arson career started during his time at Auckland University. A keen and fiercely competitive member of the University's chess team, Sir John became accustomed to firebombing the homes of opponents before big events. He became the undisputed New Zealand university chess champion in an uncontested competition, after all of his opponents defaulted to him rather than have their homes burned and their families incinerated.
Sir John says he never suspected his firebombing skills would lead to a career as a celebrity arsonist, and that his consummate skill in razing entire businesses to the ground would make him one of the most highly paid people in the country during the 1980s and 1990s.
Now semi-retired, Sir John spends most of his time tending to his garden at his Epsom home, when he is not attending charity functions or buying women over the internet.
He still finds time for the occasional church firing, and he is happy to lend other arsonists a hand.
"If I can pass on some of my skills to younger arsonists then I feel I will be giving something back to the community. Things were easier when I was starting out, but today's firebug is confronted with a bewildering range of possible accelerants, and modern building materials tend to be more fire retardant than the ones I had to deal with in my youth.
"The hardest part for any aspiring arsonist is learning how to fool the insurance companies. I do a lot of jobs for the sheer pleasure of seeing the flames rise and consume all the futile works of man, but I also do paid gigs. When you have a paying client the trick is to make the fire look like an accident, otherwise you won't get paid."
Sir John says that his proudest achievement is never going to prison for any of his fires, despite destroying the lives of thousands of people and bringing economic ruin to entire communities.
He acknowledges that police have often turned a blind eye to his razings, and says this is because in many cases the buildings he burned deserved to be destroyed, and the owners were themselves at fault for using such flammable materials in their structures.
Sir John says the honour shows that even a person devoted to wrecking the lives of others can earn the respect of a nation.
"I've taken an active part in the destruction of many businesses, forced numerous people into poverty, and enriched myself at the expense of others," says Sir John. "And now I have a knighthood to show for it."