1 Mar 2021

Senior New Zealander of the Year - Te Mātāpuputu o Te Tau
Senior New Zealander of the Year - Te Mātāpuputu o Te Tau

The Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year Award – Te Mātāpuputu o te Tau recognises those who have made a positive contribution to our great nation later in their life. This award gives New Zealanders of all ages the opportunity to express their appreciation and admiration for the achievements of our Senior New Zealander’s.

Meet the 3 finalists.

Robert Tuahuru Edwards


Robert Tuahuru Edwards is a farmer, director, entrepreneur and leader who has spent his life serving his iwi, community and region. In 2000, after decades working around the Bay of Plenty, Robert returned to Ōpōtiki, becoming chairman of his local hapū and eventually of his iwi, Te Whakatōhea, which he led through fifteen years of economic growth by progressing and remodelling the iwi’s dairy strategy, purchasing more land, negotiating joint ventures with local and regional businesses, and progressing the return of the iwi fisheries settlement in order to grow the iwi’s asset base. Alongside the mayor of Ōpōtiki, Robert helped transform the town into a bustling aquaculture industry; many locals are now employed in a thriving mussel-farming industry in the area, and in 2018, Whakatohea Māori Trust Board won the Horizon Business Excellence award for economic development. Robert is a great nurturer of the next generation, passing on his knowledge of marae and iwi history and mentoring aspiring directors and trustees as they work towards joining company boards. He is also supportive of local social and health campaigns and has participated in various mental health awareness days.

Alison McLellan


In 1976, Alison McLellan’s life changed when her 19-year-old son sustained a severe brain injury in a car crash. As she navigated the difficult years that followed, Alison McLellan joined with other parents and spouses to form the Head Injury Society in 1981 (now Brain Injury Association), a support and advocacy group. Since then, Alison has been a dedicated founding member, first Treasurer, long-time volunteer, and for the last 25 years an administrator and liaison officer for the group. Her compassion and empathy is widely known and admired and she has supported hundreds of New Zealand whanau living with brain injuries, using her lived experience of having a loved one with brain injury to guide families as their situation moves from being a clinical issue to a social and emotional one. She is also a tireless and tenacious advocate with a deep knowledge of ACC and public health services and a willingness to guide and advocate for those navigating rehabilitation and compensation. A skilled communicator and educator, Alison has facilitated many support groups, presented at national workshops and supported regional associations as they have established over the last forty years.

Dr Doug Wilson


Dr Doug Wilson always dreamed of becoming a writer, but for a dyslexic kid, studying medicine seemed a more straightforward path. He went to Otago Medical School, then got a PhD from the University of London, and built an international career as a medical academic, specialising in biomedicine and pharmaceuticals. He’s studied in NZ, London, Oxford, Melbourne, New York, He was the first US and then global head of medical research for a major international pharmaceutical company. Currently 83 years old, he has never retired and is on the board of AFT Pharmaceuticals, and clinical advisory committees for Ryman Healthcare. He is a skilled science communicator and a leading expert on ageing; he produces a podcast series called Ageing for Beginners, gives public lectures, writes blogs for Age Concern and makes regular appearances on Kim Hill’s Saturday Morning radio show on RNZ National. At age 70 Doug realised his long-held dream and began a new career as an author: he has now published eleven much-loved children’s books, and one for adults: a nonfiction book called Aging for Beginners.

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