He received the honour for services to the state earlier this week, during a formal investiture ceremony at Auckland’s Government House.
“I see it see it as recognition for my wife, Bronagh, and the kids for the sacrifices they made. I hope everyone can take a bit of joy from it,” said Key.
“There were so many things that I look back on which were tough times for New Zealand but I hope, in some small part, I could provide leadership to help people through those crises.
“I just look back and think I’m really happy with the time I was there, I was proud to be in the roles I was in. I enjoyed it.
“But no regrets in saying goodbye, you’ve got to know when you’re time is up and I kind of had worked that out.”
Leading the country through a string of natural disasters, concluding key treaty settlements – and helping to improve relations between New Zealand and the United States – were among Key’s pivotal achievements during three terms of loyal service.