Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year 2020 finalists, from left, Professor Jane Harding, Jennifer Ward-Lealand Te Atamira and Peter Beck.
Our judges have chosen three finalists who, through their inspiration and leadership, contribute 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.
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.
Jennifer Ward-Lealand Te AtamiraONZM
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.