1 Mar 2023

The change makers.
The change makers.

These are the 22 people having the biggest impact in New Zealand right now.

These Finalists are showing us a new way of doing things. In their own communities and across the nation, they're inspiring change. They're leading the way. And they're doing the mahi. 

Join us for New Zealand’s biggest night of celebration on Thursday 30 March in Tāmaki Makaurau! We're down to our very last tickets, so don't wait - secure your spot now before it’s too late.

If you don’t already know these names, you’re about to…

The Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year – Te Pou Whakarae o Aotearoa Finalists for 2023 are (in alphabetical order):

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Sir John Kirwan MBE OBE KNZM (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland)
In 2022, Sir John Kirwan embarked on a 2100km journey across the country, changing the lives of Kiwi kids by giving them tools to improve their mental health.

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Dame Jools and Dame Lynda Topp – The Topp Twins (Kaipara and Methven)
For over 25 years, Jools and Lynda Topp have made us laugh, made us think, advocated for good and ultimately made a deep and lasting impact on Aotearoa and the world.

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Professor Rangi Mātāmua (Kirikiriroa, Hamilton)
In 2022, Professor Rangi Mātāmua became known as “the man behind Matariki” – appointed as chief advisor to the government on the Māori New Year.

Finalist Ruby Tui

Ruby Tui (Tauranga)
Athlete, author and advocate for mental health, Women’s Rugby star Ruby Tui has ignited the nation with her natural charisma, talent and passion for the games.

Other Category Finalists for 2023:

Click on the links below or scroll down for each category.

The Winners in each category will be announced at the Awards dinner on Thursday 30 March 2023.


2023 University of Canterbury Young New Zealander of the Year Te Mātātahi o te Tau Finalists

Elliot Jones (Whanganui) Elliot Jones is on a mission to transform the way people across New Zealand think about dyslexia.

Georgia Latu (Ōtepoti, Dunedin) 16 year old Georgia Latu is the co-founder and CEO of the largest poi manufacturer in the world – taking over the 2022 Women's Rugby World Cup Final with 30,000 poi.

Shaneel Lal (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland) (they/ them) As New Zealand celebrated 50 years of Pride in Aotearoa, Shaneel Lal was on the frontlines – igniting the country in a successful battle to end Conversion Therapy

2023 Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year Te Mātāpuputu o te Tau Finalists

Marie Jujnovich (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland) Dedicated, selfless and deeply compassionate, Marie Jujnovich has dedicated her life to supporting children and whānau impacted by childhood heart conditions.

Sir Mark Dunajtschik KNZM (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington) A concentration camp survivor turned remarkable philanthropist, Sir Mark Dunajtschik has overcome devastating adversity to ultimately change lives across Aotearoa.

Professor Sir Pou Temara KNZM (Hamilton, Kirikiriroa) Professor Sir Pou Temara (Ngāi Tūhoe) is an internationally renowned professor of Māori language, knowledge and culture.


2023 Spark New Zealand Innovator of the Year Te Pou Whakairo o te Tau Finalists

Emily Blythe (Ōtautahi Christchurch) Emily Blythe is making airport fog delays a thing of the past with her ground-breaking technology, Pyper Vision.

Robbie van Dam (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington) In the face of biodiversity decline, Robbie van Dam, co-founder and Innovation Director of Goodnature, is rewilding the world with a revolutionary approach to eradicating invasive species.

Vaughan Fergusson (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland) Vaughan Fergusson is the innovative mind behind Vend – a high-growth tech success story – who is now channelling his energy into the next generation.


2023 MFE New Zealand Environmental Hero of the Year Te Toa Taiao o te Tau Finalists

Camden Howitt (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland) As an inspiring leader and determined problem solver, Camden Howitt is devoted to protecting and regenerating te taiao, and has spent over a decade driving collaborative solutions around Aotearoa and the Pacific.

Jessi Morgan (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington) As the Chief Executive of Predator Free New Zealand Trust, Jessi Morgan is empowering and connecting people across Aotearoa to protect our precious wildlife.

Simon Hall (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland) As well as being the Executive Chairman of Tasti Food Ltd, Simon Hall is a record-breaking conservationist – channelling business success into a force for good.


2023 Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year Ngā Pou Whirinaki o te Tau Finalists

Achieving @ Waitakere Charitable Trust (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland) An embodiment of community in action, Achieving @ Waitakere (A@W) is a charitable trust on a mission to ensure young people in West Auckland succeed in education.

Pathway Charitable Group (National) Pathway Charitable Group’s ground breaking Navigate Initiative supports prisoners before, during and after their release, inspiring them to live positive, meaningful lives in our communities.

Kindness Collective (National) Kindness Collective (KC) is a charity that spreads kindness by connecting children and families with the things they need – from everyday essentials to moments of joy.


2023 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Te Pou Toko o Te Tau Finalists

Ali Muhammad (Manawatū-Whanganui) Founder of the Thrive Foundation, Ali Muhammad is creating inclusive opportunities for rangatahi from refugee communities to participate in sporting, social and educational programmes.

Dr Ellen Nelson (Manawatū-Whanganui) Working day and night to bring 563 Afghanis to the safety of New Zealand, Dr Ellen Nelson rallied a small team from her rural Manawatū home to save the lives of colleagues that had supported the New Zealand Army.

Maia Mariner (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington) LazySneakers founder, Maia Mariner started an international movement that sees good quality footwear reach the feet of rangatahi and tamariki for free, so they can play, participate in sport, and reach their full potential.


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