Finalists for 2017 New Zealander of the Year

27 Jan 2017

The New Zealander of the Year Awards Office is pleased to announce three finalists being considered for the title of 2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

They are:

• Major Campbell Roberts: Principal Advisor for the Salvation Army’s Social Policy & Parliamentary Unit (Auckland)

Major Campbell Roberts

• Taika Waititi: Filmmaker (Piha)

Taika Waititi

• Associate Professor Mere Berryman ONZM: Educator and researcher (Tauranga)

Associate Professor  Mere Berryman

Comment from Chief Judge Cameron Bennett: 

“Whether they are serving civil society, education or the arts, the 2017 New Zealander of the Year finalists all share the values of courage, creativity and commitment - attributes that we as New Zealanders aspire to." 

“Major Campbell Roberts of the Salvation Army has dedicated his life to those living on the margins with compassion and commitment. He has challenged the status quo, even when at odds with the government of the day, and advocated for those most in need." 

“Mere Berryman has been a lifelong advocate of incorporating Māori culture and values in the New Zealand curriculum. She has experienced first-hand the struggles of Māori children to achieve within the education system and set about enabling change that has benefitted many New Zealanders." 

“As a filmmaker and actor, Taika Waititi embodies who and what it is to be a New Zealander. Audacious, bold and fun, Taika has taken New Zealand’s identity and culture and celebrated it both here and internationally." 

“These individuals don’t just talk about what they want to achieve. They make things happen. That’s why they are all such worthy contenders for the title of New Zealander of the Year.”


The annual New Zealander of the Year Awards are in their eighth year. They celebrate people who use their passion for New Zealand to make our country a better place. They are open to all New Zealanders to honour extraordinary Kiwis whose selflessness, creativity, and vision make us proud to call New Zealand home.

375 nominations were received for the title of 2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

The winner will be announced at the New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala in Auckland on 22nd February, 2017.

Previous winners of the New Zealander of the Year Award are: 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 2017 New Zealander of the Year Awards also honour New Zealanders who have performed with distinction in five other award categories. The finalists for these categories are:

University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year: 

• Kendall Flutey (Christchurch)

• Rez Gardi (Auckland Central)

• Mark Berryman (North Shore, Auckland)

Metlifecare Senior New Zealander of the Year: 

• Sue Paterson ONZM (Wellington)

• Ivan Pivac (Glendene, Auckland)

• Elaine Gill ONZM (Frankleigh Park, New Plymouth)

Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year: 

• Randwick Park (Manurewa, Auckland)

• Empowered Learning Trust (Reporoa)

• Lawrence Community (Lawrence, Otago)

Sanitarium New Zealand Innovator of the Year: 

• Dr. Ed Gane (Auckland Central)

• Jamie Beaton/ Crimson Education (Newmarket, Auckland)

• Frances Valintine/ The Mind Lab (Newmarket, Auckland)

Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year: 

• Hayden Smith (Titirangi, Auckland)

• Robert Martin MNZM (Whanganui)

• Pauline Tangiora QSO (Mahia)

More information on the 2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Awards is at

Media Contact: 

Nicky Barton, 027 3060 603 

Editors Notes: 

2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Finalists: 

Taika Waititi (Piha)

Taika Waititi is a writer, director, actor, and visual artist. His contribution to New Zealand spans many years as one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent story-tellers. His films’ evocative and unique expression of New Zealand’s culture and identity are acclaimed domestically and internationally. His short and feature films have broken box-office records and garnered international acclaim such as the Sundance Film Festival and Academy Awards.

Waititi’s creative flair and distinctive storytelling has shown New Zealand’s unique cultural traits to millions of people. The humble and easy-going nature of his characters resonate with New Zealand and international audiences. Combined with stunning visual cues of New Zealand life and landscapes, his films epitomise what makes New Zealand a truly special place to live.

Waititi participated in the 2015 Cure Kids charity single (raising funds for research into cures and treatments for conditions affecting children) and has shown support to charities fighting child poverty. He is helping raise awareness of the lack of Māori and Pacific Island bone marrow donors, including registering himself as a donor.

Major Campbell Roberts (Auckland)

Major Campbell Roberts is the principal advisor for The Salvation Army’s Social Policy & Parliamentary Unit. Roberts is the founder and formerly the director of The Salvation Army Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit, which works towards the elimination of poverty in New Zealand by influencing, and engaging national, political, corporate, government, education and media leaders.

Roberts is a passionate New Zealander committed to working with those at the margins of New Zealand society. He has a wide range experience of working in the delivery of Community and Social Services with extensive experience in the management and governance of these services within The Salvation Army and other community organisations.

He is a trusted national spokesperson and commentator in many forums on issues of poverty, prison reform, housing, welfare and employment.

Associate Professor Mere Berryman ONZM (Tauranga)

Educator and researcher Mere Berryman has been at the forefront of the development and trial of major initiatives aimed at supporting educators to work more effectively with Māori students and their families.

With more than twenty years as a classroom practitioner and fifteen years as a researcher and manager with the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Poutama Pounamu Education Research and Development Centre, Mere went on to hold the position of Senior Research Fellow for the University of Waikato. In these positions, she worked as part of a research whānau to drastically reform the way the education system could begin to realise the potential of Māori students.

In 2001, under Berryman and Bishop’s advice and direction, Te Kotahitanga began. Over the next 16 years, through commitment and dedication, and using kaupapa Māori and critical approaches, a monumental change in the attitudes and practices of teachers is now creating an education system that is more culturally responsive, and demonstrating greater understanding of Māori students and whānau.

Berryman became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2016 New Year’s honours for services to Māori and to Education.

Related news