This award honours someone who, through their inspiration and leadership, contributes to the wellbeing of the country.
Peter Beck is a globally recognised player in the international space scene. His backstory is as an inventor, engineer and entrepreneur. In 2006 he founded Rocket Lab. He had an audacious dream which he has seen through to reality: developing a rocket and launch site to send small satellites into orbit from New Zealand, redefining the space industry in the process.
To date, Rocket Lab has launched 40 satellites into orbit and created the opportunity for a whole generation of young Kiwi scientists to be part of an industry that otherwise did not exist.
Rocket Lab is now headquartered in the US but the company employs more than 400 people in New Zealand across its Auckland Production Complex and its launch site on the Mahia Peninsula.
In addition to building a billion-dollar company and developing the world's only private orbital launch site, Peter played a crucial role in establishing international treaties and legislation to enable launch capability from New Zealand. Under Peter’s guidance, Rocket Lab’s launch model will see thousands of small satellites reach orbit and feed critical data back to Earth, helping us better monitor our planet and manage our impact on it.
Peter never attended university but was this year appointed the role as Adjunct Professor at the University of Auckland.
Without question, Peter is a hugely inspiring New Zealander who represents the best in us – the willingness to take risks, to dream big and literally reach for the stars.
David Downs is a cancer survivor and self-declared genetically modified organism who is paying it forward after receiving a lifeline from CAR T-cell therapy, a revolutionary new approach to fighting cancer using the body’s immune system.
In 2018, David was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and he documented his battle in an online column, which was followed by tens of thousands of readers across New Zealand and shared globally. After 12 rounds of punishing chemotherapy, David was told his cancer was terminal but his fate turned when he got into a USA CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial. The treatment saved his life but cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Returning home, David discovered the Malaghan Institute in Wellington had been working on a new version of CAR T-cell therapy and was planning New Zealand’s first clinical trial. David pledged to raise $1 million to help fund the trial and has, to date, raised over $300,000 for the Institute (with much more pledged) and has clocked hundreds of hours and kilometres driving support through dozens of public speaking events, media appearances, comedy shows and a book, A Mild Touch of the Cancer. He regularly meets with other patients and helps them navigate into clinical trials where appropriate.
In his role as ambassador for the Malaghan Institute, and poster-boy for CAR T-cell therapy, David is working tirelessly to help bring the ground-breaking cancer treatment that saved him to New Zealand. He is an advocate for better and more affordable cancer investment and care nationally, supports others facing terminal diagnoses and gives hope and laughter to all those affected by cancer.
David is now a trustee of the Well Foundation, a charity that helps the Waitemata District Health board, where he was treated.
A serial social entrepreneur, Anne has championed pivotal outcomes in education in Europe and the eradication of landmines in Eastern Europe and Africa, working with NGOs and governments in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro.
She initiated Campus Link Foundation to harness New Zealand’s greatest untapped educational resource – undergraduates, captive in universities for 3-8 years – to academically support students in their external exam years. With 35,000+ students benefiting from the Foundation, Anne redirected her vision to deliver cognitive change for 140,000 New Zealand students with learning differences.
Anne established and funds the Centre for Brain Research. The University of Auckland’s cognitive programme brought Dr David Moreau, Princeton University, to head and develop this globally significant, cognitive intervention programme for our high-spectrum-need students (ADHD, dyslexia etc). Partnering with Eminent Prof. (Sir) Richard Faull, Anne will be delivering this programme nationwide, free to all New Zealand’s 800,000-plus school children. This programme is currently in 200-plus schools, with more than 1,000 students in research to assist with developing and executing this ground-breaking programme.
Further initiatives that Anne also funds include bringing the Feuerstein programme into New Zealand schools (1400+ trained, 800+ schools delivering, 80,000+ children benefitting); audit of global cognitive programmes - a $5b+pa unregulated industry ($176mpa in NZ); Go-Teach which places top undergrads into schools to teach STEM subjects; Brain Changer Conferences, taking neuroscience to education and informing New Zealand of educational options outside mainstream with advances in cognitive intervention for our students (9400 attendees in 2017); partnering with the Friedlander Foundation and introducing the Arrowsmith programme into six schools.
Professor Jane Harding
Professor Jane Harding’s research activities include clinical as well as basic physiological studies. Her main interests are the interaction of nutrients and growth factors in the regulation of growth before and after birth, perinatal glucose regulation and the long-term consequences of treatments given around the time of birth.
Professor Harding and her team’s Sugar Babies Study, involving 500 babies born at Waikato Hospital at risk of low blood sugar, was published in the Lancet in 2013. It was the first study to show that dextrose gel massaged into the inside of a baby’s cheek is more effective than feeding alone for treating low blood sugar. A follow up study of these babies at two years of age confirmed the treatment was safe in the longer term.
Seventy-five per cent of birthing units in New Zealand are now using this oral dextrose gel treatment, and they are reporting reductions in the number of babies admitted to neonatal intensive care units for low blood sugar.
There have now been similar reports from around the world, including in the UK, Australia, Europe and the US. Research findings throughout Professor Harding’s career have significantly informed and changed health policy and practice in New Zealand and globally.
Tapu Misa is a well-known journalist and co-editor of the online magazine E-Tangata. The not-for-profit magazine is dedicated to building a stronger Māori and Pacific presence in the media. It does so through its inspiring stories about Maori and Pacific history and identity in New Zealand.
Tapu is also the chair of the Mana Trust, which produces E-Tangata. The Trust works to strengthen Maori and Pasifika voice’s in the media.
Prior to launching E-Tangata in 2014, Tapu was a NZ Herald columnist for 11 years and served on the Broadcasting Standards Authority from 2002 to 2010. Tapu is considered to be one of New Zealand’s leading Māori and Pasifika journalists and has inspired many with her work over the years.
Dr Helen Petousis-Harris
Dr Helen Petousis-Harris is a respected vaccinologist, Senior Lecturer, and Director of the Vaccine Datalink and Research Group at the University of Auckland. She is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Auckland Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care. She is also a member of the Vaccine Safety Expert Advisory Group.
She has contributed to immunisation-related research in New Zealand for more than 20 years. Her research includes the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, notably leading a seminal contribution to the development of desperately needed gonorrhoea vaccines. She is chair of the World Health Organization Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) and a member of other international committees. Helen gives talks to schools and diverse community groups, as well as travelling as an invited presenter and speaker at international health forums.
Helen is the go-to spokesperson on vaccine issues when the media require expert commentary. During these times, when preventable diseases like measles are making an unwelcome return due to people not vaccinating their children, Helen provides uncomplicated, scientifically based information on vaccines to communicate the benefits of vaccination to the public both in New Zealand and overseas.
Helen is often the target of personal attacks and always maintains her position with dignity.
Community worker Anjum Rahman is a political and human rights activist working for the right of Muslim women, especially speaking against discrimination of Muslims. Her overarching desire is to create a better world for her own children and for all New Zealanders.
Anjum was born in a village on the Ganges Plains in Northern India. She arrived in New Zealand in 1972 when she was almost six years old.
Rahman is based in Hamilton and known for her roles as board member in different community organisations and has spoken for diversity and inclusiveness of Muslims in the community. She is also a staunch advocate for a range of ethnic and religious communities.
Rahman was the founding member and the first secretary of the Islamic Women’s Council in New Zealand that has brought women of Islamic faith together since 1990. She is a founding member and on the board of Shama (Hamilton Ethnic Women’s Centre), serves on the board that runs Hamilton’s community access broadcaster FM89, a trustee of Trust Waikato as well as being part of a governmental working group reviewing the needs of the sexual violence sector. Anjum is a member of the Waikato Interfaith Council and is the current Project Lead for the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective.
Over the past two and half decades, Rahman has been a vocal on rights of Muslim women and raised concerns of racial discrimination against the Muslim community and Muslim women in New Zealand, especially after the 9/11 attacks.
Stacey has established a formidable reputation as a litigation specialist, featuring in such high-profile cases as Pike River.
Beyond law, Stacey has also been an impact player in society. Driven by a passion to develop grassroots solutions to tackle entrenched social issues in New Zealand, Stacey brings communities together to drive change.
She’s the founding trustee of ‘Who Did You Help Today?’ – a trust designed to unleash the magic of helping so that social good grows in New Zealand.
Stacey has initiated ‘The Homework Club’ for low decile primary schools, which partners volunteers with schools to support students with their learning; Mothers’ Project which connects volunteer lawyers with imprisoned mothers to maintain family ties and improve outcomes for children; and HelpTank which connects not-for-profits with skilled volunteers to access free professional help.
Raised on a farm in Colyton, Stacey also is a former Wall Street litigator with volunteer experience in New York and Ghana. She is widely recognised as a leading lawyer in New Zealand and the founder of Our Words Matter (an online forum for sharing ideas to solve the issues that affect New Zealand).
Dame Margaret Sparrow
Dame Margaret Sparrow’s impressive medical career has spanned 42 years. She has made extraordinary contributions to the field of sexual and reproductive health. Her work is respected internationally as well as in New Zealand. She published many research papers that have given a greater understanding to the complexities of sexual and reproductive health.
Dr Sparrow served as the Medical Officer of the Student Health Service at Victoria University – a position she held from 1969 to 1981. She has held various roles within the New Zealand Family Planning Association since 1971. She worked for the Sexual Health Service, the Wellington Independent Practice Association WIPA, was a visiting venereologist and worked at Wellington Hospital. In 1997 she was a foundation trustee of ITANZ (Intersex Trust Aotearoa NZ) advocating for the rights of intersex persons.
A GP, she opened New Zealand’s first abortion clinic and vasectomy clinic, she held the post of President of the Abortion Law Reform Society for more than 30 years and is acknowledged as a trailblazer in the campaign for legal abortion in NZ.
For her services to medicine and the community, she’s received numerous awards over the years, including Distinguished Companion of NZ Order of Merit, later re-designated as a Dame Companion of the NZ Order of Merit, an MBE in 1987 for services to medicine and the community, and the NZ Suffrage Centennial Medal.
Dame Margaret continues to publish and lead education on sexual and reproductive health.
Jennifer Ward-Lealand Te Atamira ONZM
Jennifer Ward-Lealand is a pou of the performing arts community of Aotearoa.
Along with her professional work as an actor and director, she is also President of Equity New Zealand, co-founder of Watershed Theatre, a co-founder of the drama school The Actors’ Program, a trust board member of The Actors Benevolent Fund, 2018 SPADA/Data Book Industry Champion, Patron of The Auckland Performing Arts Centre (since its inception in 2000), Patron of Q Theatre (since its inception in 2011) and patron of Theatre New Zealand (since 2019).
She was part of the group that influenced council to create Q after The Watershed Theatre was closed down in 1996. Jennifer has been training and working as an intimacy coordinator on stage and screen where she is one of the pioneers of this important emerging field.
As a teacher she is involved in all aspects of screen and theatre work and is a direct mentor to emerging actors, filmmakers and writers. She makes time to speak to community groups at least once a month.
She also has an unparalleled commitment and passion for te reo Māori me ōna tikanga and was gifted the name Te Atamira (The Stage) by Sir Tīmoti Kāretu and the late Dr Te Wharehuia Milroy for her championing of te reo throughout the performing arts community. Jennifer was 2019 Women of Influence Winner in the Arts and Culture category. For her services to theatre, film and television she has been awarded an ONZM and a CNZM.