Previous winners

2023 Semi-Finalists

Ali Muhammad.jpg

Ali Muhammad

Ali Muhammad is reducing barriers to sport participation for young refugees. Originally from Afghanistan, he came to New Zealand in 2015 as a refugee, and since then has volunteered his time with numerous sports bodies. He is completing a Master’s degree in Sports Management currently and applying his knowledge practically to the communities around him. In 2021 Ali organised the first-ever refugee sports pilot programme, called SportsFest. This took care of the costs and travel arrangements for 45 young people from three different refugee communities to participate in sports together. The programme supported the participants with language help and translation, making it a truly inclusive environment. Now 70% of those participants are attending regular sports activities. He has now set-up the Thrive Foundation, which aims to help 100 refugee rangatahi to take up educational and social opportunities through a scholarship programme.

Dan Allen-Gordon.jpg

Dan Allen-Gordon

Keeping young people safe and feeling optimistic about their future is how Dan Allen-Gordon spends his days. The Bay of Plenty Regional Manager for the Graeme Dingle Foundation has been in the role for 18 years, and works to prevent bullying and violence in schools. On top of this important mahi, he spends his time outside of work sharing his expertise with other enterprises; a Rotary member, he’s the director of Tauranga’s Sunrise Club Rotary's New Generations youth programme, as well as a junior rugby referee. Over many decades Dan has built strong connections with young people, he listens and is a rock in times of hardship. Dan believes all young people have bright futures; they just need support to get there. His dedication, optimism and warmth have made him a leader who is admired.

Ellen Nelson.jpg

Dr Ellen Nelson

Dr Ellen Nelson used all her networks (team mates, Chris Parsons and Martin Dransfield, several interpreter friends, and many more supporters) and knowledge to bring 563 Afghan evacuees to live safely in New Zealand. A former captain in the New Zealand Army, she served with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan province; she never forgot the local people she worked with and they never forgot her. When the Taliban seized the country in 2021, those people that had supported the New Zealand Army became immediate targets. More than 40 of her former colleagues reached out to her, seeking assistance. It was the middle of a global pandemic and there was no Government representative on the ground. From her home in rural Manawatu, her and her team worked remotely, day and night, for almost a year, to help make emergency visa applications, lobby the Government, garner media attention, raise several hundred thousand dollars from generous New Zealanders, collaborate with government officials, distribute funds and travel documents, and facilitate border crossings. Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta set up a government task force to evacuate these vulnerable families and agreed to work alongside Ellen and her team. All 563 people on Ellen's team's list, which included the wives and children, have now been successfully evacuated to New Zealand.

George Glover.jpg

George Glover

George Glover is the president of Lads without Labels - a charity raising awareness and funding for men’s mental health at the University of Canterbury. The tertiary focused programme runs opportunities for young men to meet, support each other and develop new skills, such as sewing. Being ‘yourself’ is the main goal, and the Lads kaupapa is to create spaces for men to be together and to change the stigma associated with men’s mental health care. George is a champion of this work, and leads the charity with his open, up-front style that instills confidence in those around him and is changing conversations on campus.

Hendrika Crezee.jpg

Professor Ineke Crezee ONZM

Connecting migrants to accurate health information has been the life work of Professor Ineke Crezee ONZM. The registered nurse and linguist is passionate that those without strong English skills should have the support they need to move through the health care system with ease. It’s very specialised work, and for three decades she has pushed for greater awareness to expand the support for medical translation; she has developed interpreting courses with a health focus to support interpreters to become better equipped to understand medical language and issues, this is to ensure patients have all the information they need. In 2013 Ineke was awarded a Fulbright New Zealand Scholar Award (Public Health) and used the opportunity to observe the impressive work done by well-informed and experienced bilingual navigators overseas. She would love to see this type of bilingual and bicultural patient support implemented in New Zealand.

Maia Mariner.jpg

Maia Mariner

At the age of 12 Maia Mariner (Ngāi Tai, Ngati Koata and Samoan) founded a non-profit sneaker programme to give people access to good footwear. LazySneakers was created to provide rangatahi, tamariki and families with good quality sneakers so they can play, participate in sport and life and reach their potential. Maia has seen her project grow into a movement across the country and generate interest internationally, including in Australia - Melbourne now has a LazySneaker outreach hub. Maia is now 17 years old and LazySneakers has collected and distributed more than 10,000 pairs of sneakers to happy recipients. Her project has attracted big brands such as PUMA, who have partnered with the project to donate new sneakers, providing a bit of joy and freedom for people’s feet.

Sarah Page.jpg

Sarah Page

Kindness Collective began in 2014 when Sarah Page came up with a plan to simply 'give back' and help those in need of a little kindness. Judgement free, the Kindness Collective has become a movement across the country. There are a lot of charities that help specific causes but Sarah was concerned about the people, especially families living below the poverty line, missing out on the little joys in life. Providing dignity is a mainstay of the charity’s ethos. Mobilising a huge network of partner organisations, Sarah’s original ‘side project’ now builds community gardens, runs an annual PJ drive to keep children warm in winter and has fundraised more than three million dollars (and growing daily!) in community donations and has made 135,000 deliveries of essentials to people. With an active network of 25,000 contributors, volunteers and partners, it’s clear Sarah’s kindness is infectious.

Shirley Maihi.jpg

Shirley Maihi QSM

At 80 years of age Shirley Maihi is still going strong as the Principal of Finlayson Park School. After an astonishing 35 years as the head of Finlayson Park School she has inspired students with her warmth, caring individual attention and dedication to their welfare. Shirley has done so much for her pupils: she established a Te Reo Māori Immersion unit in response to the needs of Kohanga Reo students as they had nowhere else to continue their Te Reo education; she then established Bilingual Education Units for Samoan, Maori, Tongan and latterly Kiribati - these students learn in 2 languages. Recognising the needs of low- income households in her Manurewa community she started organising free breakfasts and lunches for students in 1991, years before there were any similar government initiatives. With a background of 55 years in the education sector she has seen all the kinds of issues children can bring to school and is consistent in her kindness and resolve to support and assist them in their learning and academic achievement. Shirley supports the whole wellbeing of the students and their whānau to feel confident, be genuine and to give encouragement one another. She has established a school as the "Hub of the Community" where parents can engage for all whānau needs.

Tracy Wellington.jpg

Tracy Wellington

In 2011 Tracy Wellington watched a programme about child poverty, afterwards she and her husband decided to try and do all they could to stop it. Contacting friends and family the pair pulled together some goods and contacted local agencies to see what they needed most. Buoyed by the response they got from friends and family they set up Kiwi Community Assistance, a charity that now provides the necessities of life to over 80 agencies. Connecting directly with supermarkets, manufacturers, distributors, hotels and members of the public, Tracy has built up a great team of supporters. Tracy and her team of 90 volunteers are kept busy collecting and distributing goods with over 345 tonnes of food and 4,500 boxes of non food supplies last year. KCA has been recognised with a number of awards, most recently as the 2022 Supreme winner of the Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards.

Venerable Manshin.jpg

Venerable Abbess Manshin

Dedicating her life to the service of others, Venerable Abbess Manshin is a member of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order. In her 20 years of service to New Zealand, Abbess has led the construction of two Buddhist temples in Auckland and Christchurch to serve the communities. Compassion is at the heart of Abbess’s work and teachings. She has set up education programmes to nurture the values embedded in the Three Goodness - Do Good Deeds, Say Good Words and Think Good Thoughts. Over 25,000 students and teachers from 51 schools have participated in this programme since 2014. During the height of the pandemic, Abbess responded immediately by importing 15,000 Rapid Antigen Test kits from BLIA HQ into the country to aid the shortage of test kits and to reduce the impact of the Omicron variant on the community. She organised the distribution of these kits across 97 schools in Auckland and Christchurch within four days.



To be eligible for this award, the nominee must be an individual who has made (or is making) a significant contribution to their region, town, suburb, community, iwi, or local group. The impact can be across any field or have displayed courage in overcoming personal adversity.

Nominators should consider talking about the following areas in their nomination:

  • THE NOMINEE: Describe the person you are nominating and what they’ve done to inspire you over the past year to nominate them as 2023 Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year Te Pou Toko o te Tau.
  • PURPOSE: Who benefits from the work, contribution, or influence of this person - and how?
  • LEADERSHIP: How does this person set a positive example for other members of their local community?
  • COMMITMENT: Describe the commitment of time, risks, and challenges overcome to create an impact to this point (this may still be ongoing). What have they done that has gone above and beyond to show leadership, create change, and give back?
  • PROVEN IMPACT: How has this person clearly demonstrated a positive impact in their local community

Conditions of Entry


How do the Kiwibank Local Hero Awards work?

  1. All Local Hero nominations are divided up into regions across Aotearoa
  2. Nominations for each region are then sent on to the three Local Hero Judges for that region, for their consideration.
  3. Nominations are scored by regional Local Hero Judges based on the criteria above
  4. The top 100 (highest scoring) Local Hero nominees across New Zealand will be honoured in December. While we won’t be having official medal ceremonies this year, we’re making sure we recognise these inspiring New Zealanders by sending each of them their medals — and even hand-delivering a few throughout Aotearoa
  5. The 100 Local Hero Medallists go forward to Category Judging Day in November for the 2022 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Te Pou Toko o te Tau national award and 10 semi-finalists will be announced in mid-January
  6. The 10 semi-finalists will be considered at the Executive Judging Day in late January. Three will be announced as the finalists in the New Zealand Local Hero award in February, and of those three, one will be awarded the 2023 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Te Pou Toko o te Tau title at the Gala event in March 2023 in Auckland
“At Kiwibank we’ve always been here to support the growth and progress of Kiwi. We couldn’t be prouder of our decade long partnership with the New Zealander of the Year Awards. It is our privilege to be a partner of this celebration of those selfless, creative and visionary Kiwi who have put in the hard mahi for the benefit of our communities. These special New Zealanders embody how we can all play a part in contributing to our society and together have a positive impact.”
Steve Jurkovich
Kiwibank Chief Executive