December 12, 2022

Our most trailblazing innovators, visionaries and change-makers are announced. These 70 New Zealanders are the ones making inspirational change in our country. Selected from thousands of nominations, across seven Award categories, their commitment, selflessness, and determination make us proud to call Aotearoa home.

So, without further ado let’s hear it for our 2023 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards Ngā Tohu Pou Kōhure o Aotearoa Semi-Finalists!




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.


Dame Jools and Dame Lynda Topp – The Topp Twins (Methven and Kaipara)

For over 25 years, Dame Jools and Dame 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.


Mark Law (Whakatane)

In the aftermath of the horrific disaster on Whakaari/White Island, helicopter pilot Mark Law was first on the scene and organised the recovery and transport of 20 people to hospital.


Professor Rangi Mātāmua (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.


Dame Robin White DNZM (Masterton)

It’s been a year of celebrations for extraordinary artist Dame Robin White DNZM – who for over 50 years has portrayed people and their environments in Aotearoa and beyond.


Distinguished Professor Roy Kerr FRS CNZM FRSNZ (Ōtautahi Christchurch)

Distinguished Professor Roy Kerr FRS CNZM FRSNZ is an eminent mathematician, internationally renowned for a discovery that sparked a revolution in physics.


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 game.

Shaneel Lal (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

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.


Tāme Iti (Whakatane)

2022 has been a monumental year for Tame Iti: cementing his place as an artist and change maker who has shifted the course of history in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Dr Vincent O’Malley (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington)

Acclaimed historian Vincent O’Malley has spent decades exploring formative conflicts in Aotearoa New Zealand’s history, offering essential knowledge to shape our collective identity.


Read more about these Semi-Finalists Here.



Elliot Jones (Whanganui)

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


Genevieve Mora (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

After years battling mental illness, Genevieve Mora is using her lived experience to remove stigma and help others feel less alone.


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.


Mason Bleakley (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland)

A passionate advocate for innovation, Mason Bleakley has a goal to see New Zealand as the best place to launch global business through a thriving start-up ecosystem.


Nina Santos (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland)

Nina Santos is a pay equity campaigner and a vociferous champion for intersectional gender equity and migrant rights. As Delivery Manager for the Mindthegap, she is determined to address pay discrimination and close New Zealand’s pay gaps.


Rangipo Ngaire Takuira-Mita (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland)

Part of rangatahi-led group Te Pū a Ngā Māra, Rangipo Takuira-Mita brings rangatahi innovators together to uncover indigenous solutions for a sustainable future through revive, reconnect, and regeneration.


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.


Shaquille Shortland (Whangarei Te Taitokerau)

Community leader, entrepreneur and now Mayoral candidate, Shaquille Shortland is passionate about the revitalisation and retention of indigenous knowledge.


Sukhans Asrani (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

After struggling in high school, Sukhans Asrani went on to create Zorbi – a digital tool that makes studying hyper efficient, now used by thousands of students worldwide.

Toilolo Leilani Taula (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington)

Toilolo Leilani Taula wants to see the Pasifika community better represented in the legal profession in Aotearoa – and she’s doing everything she can to help them get there.


Read more about these Semi-Finalists here.



Graham Roy Falla (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland)

For over five decades, Graham Roy Falla has championed the restoration and preservation of his local environment; generously sharing time and knowledge with his community.


Dr Haare Williams MNZM (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland)

Dr Haare Williams MNZM has dedicated his life to bridging the distance between Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Pākehā, making a significant contribution to Māoridom in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Hansa Naran (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

A passionate advocate for women and families, Hansa Naran is well known in Manukau for her tireless community service spanning over 30 years.


Joy Cowley (Featherston)

Joy Cowley is a New Zealand literary legend who has inspired generations with her warmth, imagination and commitment to sharing stories.


Dr Kantilal Patel QSM (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

Over the last 45 years Dr Kantilal Patel QSM has earned a reputation as a community leader, general practitioner and philanthropist in Otara, South Auckland.


Dame Malvina Major ONZ GNZM DBE (Kirikiriroa Hamilton)

In 2022, Dame Malvina Major ONZ GNZM DBE achieved a lifelong goal with the launch of Te Pae Kōkako – The Aotearoa New Zealand Opera Studio, supporting talented young New Zealand singers at the University of Waikato.


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.


Mark Dunajtschik (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington)

A concentration camp survivor turned remarkable philanthropist, Mark Dunajtschik has overcome devastating adversity to ultimately change lives across Aotearoa.


Matthew Te Pou MNZM MBE BEM (Whakatāne)

Considered a Rangatira (esteemed chief) for his people, former soldier, rugby coach and community leader Matthew John Te Pou MNZM MBE BEM has lived his life in service to others.


Professor Sir Pou Temara KNZM (Hamilton, Kirikiriroa)

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


Read more about these Semi-Finalists here.




Andrew Barnes (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

Innovator, entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Barnes is internationally regarded as the architect of the four day work week.


David Irving ONZM (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

David Irving ONZM is a New Zealand business legend who is committed to giving back.


Emily Blythe (Ōtautahi Christchurch)

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


Jos Ruffell (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington)

Putting New Zealand beer and ingredients on a world stage, Jos Ruffell is a driving force behind Garage Project and Phantasm.


Māhera Maihi (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

Māhera Maihi is is helping South Auckland youth escape from cycles of family violence, gangs, and poverty through her charity Mā Te Huruhuru.


Michele Wilson (Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland)

A champion for Māori innovation and Māori women succeeding in business, Michele Wilson is a wāhine toa on a mission: to live her values through her mahi.


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.


Ross Ihaka (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

Ross Ihaka is a New Zealand statistician. In the 1990s, he co-created a free number-crunching software that is today used by millions of people all over the world.


Travis Glare (Waitaha Canterbury)

Travis Glare has dedicated his life to protecting Aotearoa’s flora and fauna, as Director of Lincoln University, he’s inspiring the next generation of researchers and scientists to do the same.


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.


Read more about these Semi-Finalists here.



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 solutons around Aotearoa and the Pacific.


Estelle Leask MNZM (Motupōhue Bluff)

A environmental champion in the far South, Estelle Leask has dedicated her life to being a kaitiaki – a guardian – for the land and culture she loves.


India Logan-Riley (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

Representing indigenous communities on a world stage, India Logan-Riley is making waves as a climate change activist and leader fo rangatahi across Aotearoa.


Dr Jessica Hutchings (Kaitoke)

Dr Jessica Hutchings is a well-known kaupapa Māori research leader committed to empowering others through knowledge sharing, research and community practice.


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.


Professor Kura Paul-Burke (Tauranga)

Associate Professor Kura Paul-Burke is New Zealand’s first wāhine Māori Professor of Marine Research – inspiring the next generation of marine scientists.


Dr Mike Joy (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington)

New Zealand freshwater ecologist and science communicator Dr Mike Joy has made a name for himself as a fierce advocate for environmental protection.


Simon Hall (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

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


Tina Porou MNZM (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington)

Tina Porou advocates for the importance of kaitiakitanga and honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi for the well-being of our natural environment.


William Anaru (Pongakawa)

An innovative leader with impact, William Anaru is igniting his community with a range of environmental projects through the Te Arawa Lakes Trust.


Read more about these Semi-Finalists here.



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.


The Christchurch Aunties (Ōtautahi Christchurch)

The Christchurch Aunties is a thriving network of over 6,000 people helping women and children in Canterbury who have experienced family violence.


Foster Hope Otago (Dunedin)

Founded on the belief that every child deserves to know that someone cares about them, Foster Hope Otago is a volunteer community supporting young people in foster care.


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.


Littlemore (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

A grassroots charity making a big difference every day, Littlemore provides over 4,500 baby items a week, so whānau living below the poverty line have the essentials they need to nurture their babies and keep them safe and warm.


Pā Harakeke Flaxmere (Paharakeke, Flaxmere)

Over the past decade, Pā Harakeke Flaxmere – a township in the Hastings District – has undergone a major transformation; rallying together after some of their darkest days.


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.


REAP Aotearoa Collective (National)

REAP Aotearoa is a collective of 13 organisations that exist in rural communities around the country, offering support on a community, whānau and individual level.


Recreate NZ (National)

Across New Zealand, Recreate NZ offers life-changing experiences for young people with disabilities.


The Good Registry (National)

The Good Registry is a community built around championing the good – offering an alternative to traditional gift-giving that reduces waste and supports great causes.


Read more about these Semi-Finalists here.





Ali Muhammad (Palmerston North)

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


Dan Allen-Gordon (Tauranga)

Dan Allen-Gordon has dedicated the past 18 years to preventing bullying and violence in schools with his work at the Graeme Dingle Foundation.


Dr Ellen Nelson (Palmerston North)

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.


George Glover (Blenheim)

Lads without Labels president, George Glover is changing the stigma attached to men’s mental health.


Professor Ineke Crezee ONZM (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

Professor Ineke Crezee has spent the past three decades connecting migrants to health services, advocating for medical translation, and developing interpreting courses with health focuses to ensure patients without English get the care they need.


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.


Sarah Page (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

Sarah Page, founder of The Kindness Collective, has mobilised a nationwide network of people to bring some small joy to the lives of over 135,000 people.


Shirley Maihi QSM (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

Shirley Maihi’s inspiring 30 year term as Principal of Finlayson Park School has seen her blaze trails in community support and education.


Tracy Wellington (Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington)

Tracy Wellington is on a mission to stop child poverty, setting up a charity that intercepts food from multiple sources and fills up local food banks and bellies in Porirua.


Venerable Abbess Manshin (Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)

Venerable Abbess Manshin’s compassion is exemplary of Buddhist teachings, she’s spent the past 30 years inspiring others to live with kindness and generosity through her community leadership.


Read more about these Semi-Finalists here.