New Zealander of the Year

Local heroes “the spine of the country”

NZOTY_local heroes lock up

The Local Heroes Awards are part of the Kiwibank NewZealander of the Year Awards. The awards are about finding the gold in ourcommunities – people doing extraordinary things – and giving them a pat on theback. There are 16 award ceremonies being held this year to recognise the localheroes in our communities. But recognition is just a part of it. Getting theirstories out there can be incredibly inspiring to others.

People often thought 2016 winner, Z Energy station ownerSelwyn Cook, was employing people with physical and intellectual withdisabilities to be nice.

“I say, ‘Well, it wasn’t nice - it was business,’” saysSelwyn.

“I hired people with disabilities because they stayed longer,were absent less often, had fewer training and management costs, and introduceda dynamic to our business that our customers seemed to appreciate.”

He believes the publicity given to his award helped spark asocial change in attitudes towards hiring people with disabilities.

“Suddenly I wasn’t just the petrol pumper from the Tron – Iwas the guy who’d won the Local Heroes Award, so maybe I was worth listeningto,” he says.

Similarly, winning the Kiwibank New Zealande Local Hero Awardin 2011 brought boxing coach Billy Graham to national attention.

“We were blown away by the impact of that award,” saysGraham. “It gave us credibility, and when you have credibility you can opendoors.”

Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall, himself 2015 NewZealander of the Year, was hugely impressed by the work of Graham and his wife,Kerri. The Tindall Foundation and Vodafone NZ Foundation co-funded a pilotscheme to set up a second boxing academy in the Porirua suburb of CannonsCreek.

Each year the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year awards 250-350medals to people in the local communities. The awards are presented in 16 localcommunities around the country and aim to flush out the unsung local heroes – peoplewho don’t necessarily like the limelight.

Anti-violence campaigner Henare O’Keefe, winner of the 2012Kiwibank New Zealand Local Heroes Award, urges Kiwis to nominate their own heroeseach year for the awards. “If there’s an opportunity to do good, they’re inthere and often at great personal cost. Local heroes are the spine of thecountry — they keep communities alive.”

Selwyn Cook says he was humbled and delighted by his experience“The whole journey, from meeting the othernominees in Hamilton to attending the big awards night in February, was anamazing experience to be swept up in. It was a great privilege to meet the othernominees, who were all committed to doing selfless things for others.”

While nominations haveclosed for this year, he strongly urges people to get involved every year bynominating outstanding Kiwis for a Local Heroes Award or one of the other KiwibankNew Zealander of the Year Awards.

TheLocal Heroes Awards are a celebration of the selfless and determined people whomake a difference and they form the backbone of the Kiwibank New Zealander ofthe Year Awards. 16 Local Heroes Awards ceremonies are being held between November17 and December 12, 2016 in communities all over the country, with the winnersgoing to the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala Dinner on February16, 2017.

TheAwards have been championed by Kiwibank for eight years and recognise a diverserange of Kiwis making a difference. Whether they’re aged 15 or 100, theyinspire us all.

Find out more here on about the New Zealander of the Year Awards.