2020 New Zealand Community of the Year Semi-Finalists

14 Dec 2019

Community of the Year
Community of the Year

This award honours a person or group who’ve contributed to the economic, social or environmental health of their community. Meet the 10 semi-finalists.       

Asian Events Trust

Asian Events Trust

The Wellington Chinese New Year Festival was born out of the efforts of the Asian Events Trust. AET is the driving force and conductor of an annual Chinese New Year Festival. For almost 20 years this festival has brought the community together to celebrate the most important event in the Chinese calendar.

The vital contribution that cultural festivals perform is celebrating cultural diversity, promoting understanding, nurturing social harmony and building strong communities. This is AET’s mission.

Asian Events Trust brings together more than 3500 volunteers from 70 community groups to put on this dynamic and vibrant festival that is enjoyed by more than 60,000 people each year.

AET has created a strong sense of community spirit - enhancing the social, economic, and cultural prosperity of Wellington by bringing the community together for Chinese New Year Festival celebrations.

Baby Loss NZ

Baby Loss montage

A registered charity for over 10 years, Baby Loss NZ‘s purpose is ‘Creating Memories, Healing Hearts’. Its pillars are creating tangible memories and assisting families to learn to live with their grief of losing a young child pre or post birth, creating community through public awareness and fostering a safe place to support and validate the impacts of their ongoing experience.

It holds baby loss awareness events, coffee mornings, practical workshops, training and education for health professionals. To date, Baby Loss NZ has supported families in more than 1,200 bereavements.

It also supports parents facing the difficult decision following a poor prognosis. Baby Loss NZ’s main branch is in Papakura, covering Middlemore Hospital, Starship, PICU and funeral homes, and the group also has branches in Hauraki/Piako and Christchurch.

Baby Loss NZ’s main service is the Active Parenting & Memory Making Service including Care Bags. Members of its team visit the hospital and help to create memories that can be held forever. This free service consists of hand and foot casts, photos set to music in a slideshow and inkless hand/footprints.

Most of Baby Loss NZ’s members/supporters are also bereaved parents who have been in similar circumstances. Empathy and understanding are offered. Members are not counsellors and do not give formal advice but do offer an opportunity and environment to share experiences, to talk and to listen. Baby Loss NZ promotes awareness, understanding and support for those dealing with the death of a baby in pregnancy, birth and up to a year following a full-term birth as well as loss due to medical termination or other forms of reproductive loss.

The Common Unity Project Aotearoa

Common Unity Project

CUPA started as a pilot project based at Epuni Primary School. On a disused soccer field volunteers grew enough food to feed the children of the school three times a week.

CUPA is a community-based urban farm and enterprise, growing food and offering skills and leadership to local families. The overall purpose of CUPA is to encourage vibrant and resilient local communities, recognising that this is inseparable from restoring and protecting the health of the environment. It seeks to regenerate communities, and works collaboratively with community, schools and organisations across Lower Hutt.

A community-based urban development project, growing food, skills, leadership and enterprise, its mission is: `To Ensure Every Child has a Village`.

Community projects include:

  • Beeple - honey collective
  • Sew Goods Cooperative – sewing
  • ReCycled Rides
  • Unity Catering
  • Unity Exchange
  • Urban Kai Farms
  • Unity Kitchen
  • Koha Cafe

Communicare - Civilian Maimed Association (Ak) Inc


Communicare, celebrating 60 years, helps vulnerable seniors by providing safe and regular meeting places. This gives them an opportunity to make friends, take part in a variety of activities, and remain connected and engaged with their local community.

There are now 21 Friendship Centres (hosted in various community facilities) throughout Central, Eastern, Western and South Auckland. The Friendship Centres are each open on one day a week, except during school holidays.

Friendship Centres support members to live and age positively, promoting true community spirit. This not only benefits members but benefits the wider family and community generally. Their purpose is to enhance the quality of life for members by addressing the issues of loneliness and social isolation, while at the same time assisting them to remain living independently in their own homes for longer. This means they can continue to live the lives they want and stay connected to the people and things that matter most to them.

Eighteen part-time employees deliver this vital service and are supported by nearly 250 volunteers. These employees and volunteers run local centres providing support with card games and other activities such as bowling. They serve morning tea and lunch and provide help with transport - picking up and dropping off those members who need assistance to reach their local centre.

Foster Hope Charitable Trust

Foster Hope

The purpose/mission of Foster Hope is founded on the belief that every child in foster care deserves to know that their community cares about them. Many of these children arrive at their new placements with little more than the clothes on their backs and a few possessions in a plastic bag. Foster Hope backpacks (essential items as a symbol of love and support) brings a little light and compassion into what is a highly stressful time in the lives of the children and their caregivers.

Foster Hope was established 10 years ago and there are now eight branches spread throughout New Zealand - from Northland to Otago. It provides support to 150 agencies

Foster Hope relies on donations/koha from many individuals, groups and local businesses. Items are also donated by individuals, community groups and businesses, including large corporates. Foster Hope has been successful in applying for grants from local and national community organisations to help to fund the items contained in the backpacks. Some branches organise fundraising events in their own communities - from sausage sizzles to movie evenings – to support its cause.

Foster Hope relies entirely on volunteers to run and co-ordinate the branches in their areas. All the management board are also volunteers.

There are more than 6,000 children in foster care in New Zealand. During 2019 Foster Hope distributed over 5,230 backpacks and 132 flatpacks to regions all over New Zealand. This year it arranged five very successful Foster Hope Events for children and their caregivers – providing respite. Foster Hope’s volunteers tirelessly worked for more than 6630 hours helping to ensure that children know there are people in their community who really care!

Good Bitches Baking Trust

Good Bitches Baking

Good Bitches Baking (GBB) is a registered charity which delivers home baking to New Zealanders going through trauma or difficulty. In the past five years it has helped more than 650,000 people. As a charity, it relies on public donations and its enterprise to keep running.

GBB’s purpose is to make Aotearoa the ‘kindest place on earth’. The charity was founded by two Wellington women, Nicole Murray and Marie Fitzpatrick. Both women were recipients of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday awards in 2019.

The charity regards itself as a virtual community with 2100 volunteers throughout New Zealand, in 24 local chapters. GBB is volunteer driven – with only one part-time staff member for general administration.

The volunteers’ baking is distributed by the 170 other charities that GBB supports - organisations such as Women’s Refuge, mental health group homes, Rape Crisis, Age Concern, night shelters, missions, hospices and hospitals.

Among several innovative initiatives, in 2018 GBB ran a trial programme at Rimutaka Prison. This gave men an opportunity to be volunteers and to learn the practical skill of baking. Over nine weeks GBB volunteers visited the prison once a week, baking a new treat each time. The men donated their goods to Women’s Refuge and other charities.

Menzshed NZ


Menzshed NZ is an incorporated society whose aim is to meet the needs of its member sheds by providing centralised promotion, support, collaboration and resources to member sheds and emerging groups throughout New Zealand. This is a nationwide initiative that brings men together in their community space to share skills, companionship and support while working on practical tasks individually or as part of a group or community project.

Each Menzshed works on its own projects, though most around New Zealand take on community projects such as building playgrounds for pre-school centres, repairing toy library stock, repairing old bikes for distribution to poorer communities and building planter boxes for the main street of their local central business district.

Some Kiwi men (particularly of an older generation) are often experiencing some degree of social isolation, so Menzsheds offer opportunities to foster new friendships outside the social circles they and/or their partners may have established. The Menzsheds are intended to provide support, encouragement and mentorship for men from all walks of life. They foster greater understanding and camaraderie and allow men the opportunity to learn new skills.

Some Menzsheds also provide sessions for women who wish to acquire new skills and get involved in personal or community projects.

They also encourage healthy living initiatives, allowing for health professionals to gain access to men who may otherwise not take as much care of themselves as they could.

Merge Community

Merge Community

The Merge Community is run within The Lifewise Trust.

The Merge Community Peer Support Team provides guidance and advocacy to people in the homeless community. The hub of this work is Merge Café on Karangahape Road, which through Lifewise, provides 20,000 low-cost meals a year. This is a vibrant safe place for the whole community to connect and to receive help.

The team is usually made up of seven volunteers. All have lived the experience of homelessness. They help develop alternative pathways and innovative solutions sharing their lived experience to enable real solutions and connections. At least one or more of the volunteer team is at Merge Café to engage with people who have lost heart and distrust the social services. Volunteers devote their time to helping their street whanau.

Volunteers derive, passion and confidence from this work.

Over the past six months, the peer community volunteers have provided advice, support and advocacy to 272 individual whanau members. Most of their work is around housing and benefits; for 58 people the main issues were emergency accommodation; benefit advocacy was key for 77 each with two to three issues; 61 people were given ongoing peer support. The team sees an average of four people every day.

The Housing First programme provides permanent housing and wraparound support for people experiencing chronic homelessness. As of November 2019, 130 people (some of whom have been homeless for up to 20 years) have been permanently housed through this programme.

The Merge Community Team has a wide variety of work-streams, including social enterprise work, the design work, the voice and anti-stigmatisation work, the creative community led development work as well as the peer support and the advocacy work. There are also some new contracts just coming on board: peer outreach to provide support and navigation to housing and support services to rough sleepers in the city centre; and a Housing Navigation service for people who are in emergency accommodation and need support to move into permanent housing.

The Voices of Hope Trust

Jazz Thornton

Voices of Hope was founded in 2014 by Genevieve Mora and Jazz Thornton. Both are mental illness survivors, who felt the need to apply their past experiences to bring about change.

Voices of Hope is an online community with some in-person presence. Its two social media platforms have total followers of 24,000 and their daily social media quote posts reach over 100,000.

Voices of Hope’s mission is to provide hope and help for those struggling with mental illness and its related daily struggles. There is a particular reference to young people and issues such as eating disorders and suicide.

It aims to benefit the community by raising awareness of mental health issues, promoting mental well-being, empowerment, and recovery, reducing the stigma on mental health conditions and supporting those suffering from mental health issues.

Voices of Hope relies on grants, volunteers, donations and sponsorship to cover the cost of video content production, website maintenance and travel for speaking engagements.

In the last year, Voices of Hope:

  • Produced 13 specifically targeted videos which reached over 700,000 people.
  • Spoke at three seminars (Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland) on Suicide Prevention
  • Presented at over 100 events with total attendees over 100,000.
  • Delivered nine podcasts reaching 500 people

ZEALANDIA (Karori Sanctuary Trust)


ZEALANDIA is the world’s first fully fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore Wellington’s valley forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state, and a 20-year strategy to transform the way people live with nature.

The 225-hectare ecosanctuary is a ground-breaking conservation project that has reintroduced 20 species of native wildlife back into the area, some of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years.

Over 40 different species of native birds have been recorded in the sanctuary valley, 24 of them endemic. Dozens of reptile species, hundreds of plant species and thousands of types of invertebrates have made ZEALANDIA their home. A local author has written of ZEALANDIA: “The valley that transformed a city”, and it was named as one of the World’s 100 Greatest Places (2019 by TIME Magazine)

ZEALANDIA is governed and managed by the Karori Sanctuary Trust, a not-for-profit community-led organisation with its own Board. It became a Wellington City Council Controlled Organisation in 2016 . It relies on a variety of sources for funding and support provided by members, sponsors and partners, who are involved in a wide range of different initiatives. The sanctuary’s latest report records visitor numbers of 183,141 (40 per cent were international). Membership stands at 10,932 and is supported by 608 volunteers.

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