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Finalists for 2020 New Zealander of the Year

27 January 2020

The New Zealander of the Year Awards Office is pleased to announce the three finalists being considered for the 2020 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year award.

They are:
• Jennifer Ward-Lealand Te Atamira: actress and te reo Māori me ngā tikanga advocate (Auckland)
• Peter Beck: local space industry pioneer (Auckland)
• Professor Jane Harding: neonatologist (Auckland)
Comment from Chief Judge Cameron Bennett

“It is their rich, unwavering, desire to lead by example and help their fellow Kiwis that makes these finalists worthy of New Zealander of the Year.

“The staunch and devoted advocacy of Jennifer Ward-Lealand has greatly improved the workplace conditions and rights of performing arts professionals in New Zealand. She has tirelessly championed for stronger representation of te reo Māori me ngā tikanga and enhanced the profile and integrity of New Zealand’s performing arts industry.

“As founder of Rocket Lab, Peter Beck is making frequent and reliable access to space satellite services attainable to the many, not just the few. His innovative rocket design, leadership and pioneering spirit has put New Zealand on the map and created a new space industry that many would’ve thought wasn’t possible.

“Neonatologist Professor Jane Harding is one of the world’s foremost experts on child and fetal health and development. Her team’s research on child development during pregnancy, birth and newborns has led to paradigm changes in our understanding of the link between maternal health and baby health. Her outstanding contribution to research will continue to save lives for years to come.”


The annual New Zealander of the Year awards are in their 11th year. The awards are a celebration of Kiwis that are passionate and committed to making New Zealand a better place to live for everyone. The awards encourage all New Zealanders to honour extraordinary Kiwis whose selflessness, creativity, and vision make us proud to call New Zealand home.

A total of 969 nominations were received for the 2020 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Award.

The winner will be announced at the New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala in Auckland on Thursday, 20 February 2020.

Previous winners of the New Zealander of the Year award are: Mike King (2019), Kristine Bartlett (2018), Taika Waititi (2017), Richie McCaw (2016), Sir Stephen Tindall (2015), Dr Lance O’Sullivan (2014), Dame Anne Salmond (2013), Sir Richard Taylor (2012), Sir Paul Callaghan (2011) and Sir Ray Avery (2010).

Other categories

The 2020 New Zealander of the Year Awards also honour New Zealanders who have achieved distinction in five other award categories.
The finalists for these categories are:
University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year
1. Fraser McConnell: environmentalist (Wellington)
2. Georgia Hale: sportswoman and community worker (Auckland)
3. Tabitha Besley: rainbow advocate (Wellington)

Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year
3. Dame Margaret Sparrow: reproductive rights activist (Wellington)
4. Lexie Matheson: performance artist and academic (Auckland)
5. Professor Bob Elliot: children’s health researcher (Auckland)

Trade Me New Zealand Innovator of the Year
• Aliesha Staples – StaplesVR: local virtual and augmented reality pioneer (Auckland)
• Bill Buckley - Buckley Systems Ltd: tech manufacturer (Auckland)
• Fady Mishriki: tech innovator and entrepreneur (Auckland)

Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year
6. Foster Hope: charity (national)
7. Good Bitches Baking: charity (national)
8. Zealandia: ecosanctuary (Wellington)

Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year
9. Diane Stretton Yalden: community champion (Taneatua)
10. Ken Clearwater: male sexual abuse advocate (Kaiapoi)
11. Nick Loosley: restauranteur (Auckland)

For more information on the 2020 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Awards, its judges and semi-finalists, please visit


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