Dr Ellen Joan Nelson (nee Ford)

New Zealand Local Hero of the Year



New Zealand Local Hero of the Year

Te Pou Toko o te Tau

These are the individuals who have made a positive difference in their corner of Aotearoa. From Cape Reinga to Bluff, these Kiwi show selflessness and determination to make a difference.

To be eligible for this award, the nominee must be an individual who has made (or is making) a significant contribution to their region, town, suburb, community, iwi, or local group. The impact can be across any field or have displayed courage in overcoming personal adversity.

Nominators should consider talking about the following areas in their nomination:

  • THE NOMINEE: Describe the person you are nominating and what they’ve done to inspire you over the past year to nominate them as 2024 Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year Te Pou Toko o te Tau.
  • PURPOSE: Who benefits from the work, contribution, or influence of this person – and how?
  • LEADERSHIP: How does this person set a positive example for other members of their local community?
  • COMMITMENT: Describe the commitment of time, risks, and challenges overcome to create an impact to this point (this may still be ongoing). What have they done that has gone above and beyond to show leadership, create change, and give back?
  • PROVEN IMPACT: How has this person clearly demonstrated a positive impact in their local community

Conditions of Entry


How do the Kiwibank Local Hero Awards work?

  1. All Local Hero nominations are divided up into regions across Aotearoa
  2. Nominations for each region are then sent on to the three Local Hero Judges for that region, for their consideration.
  3. Nominations are scored by regional Local Hero Judges based on the criteria above
  4. The top 100 (highest scoring) Local Hero nominees across New Zealand will be honoured in December. While we won’t be having official medal ceremonies this year, we’re making sure we recognise these inspiring New Zealanders by sending each of them their medals — and even hand-delivering a few throughout Aotearoa
  5. The 100 Local Hero Medallists go forward to Category Judging Day in November for the 2023 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Te Pou Toko o te Tau national award and 10 semi-finalists will be announced in mid-January
  6. The 10 semi-finalists will be considered at the Executive Judging Day in late January. Three will be announced as the finalists in the New Zealand Local Hero award in February, and of those three, one will be awarded the 2024 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Te Pou Toko o te Tau title at the Gala event in March 2024 in Auckland

Dr Ellen Joan Nelson (nee Ford)

Dr Ellen Nelson used all her networks (team mates, Chris Parsons and Martin Dransfield, several interpreter friends, and many more supporters) and knowledge to bring 563 Afghan evacuees to live safely in New Zealand. A former captain in the New Zealand Army, she served with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan province; she never forgot the local people she worked with and they never forgot her. When the Taliban seized the country in 2021, those people that had supported the New Zealand Army became immediate targets. More than 40 of her former colleagues reached out to her, seeking assistance. It was the middle of a global pandemic and there was no Government representative on the ground. From her home in rural Manawatu, her and her team worked remotely, day and night, for almost a year, to help make emergency visa applications, lobby the Government, garner media attention, raise several hundred thousand dollars from generous New Zealanders, collaborate with government officials, distribute funds and travel documents, and facilitate border crossings. Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta set up a government task force to evacuate these vulnerable families and agreed to work alongside Ellen and her team. All 563 people on Ellen′s team′s list, which included the wives and children, have now been successfully evacuated to New Zealand.



Dr Ellen Joan Nelson (nee Ford)


Dave Letele


Shannon Te Huia


Nick Loosley


Pera Barrett


Ricky Houghton


Hayden Smith


Selwyn Cook


Billie Jordan



New Zealand Local Hero of the Year

Steve Jurkovich

Kiwibank Chief Executive

“Kiwibank has been a part of New Zealander of the Year and the Local Hero Awards for over 14 years. It’s an ideal partnership for us as it is so aligned with our purpose to make Kiwi better off. The local heroes we are here celebrating tonight are making a difference to New Zealand communities that is real, lasting, and local. They’ve stood up to give others a voice of support, to break down social barriers and to tirelessly serve their community. More often than not, these are humble individuals. True local heroes aren’t in this for 15 minutes of fame, instead they care about the difference they are making in the lives of their friends, families and communities. It’s about how they are making Aotearoa and our communities better off too.”