New Zealander of the Year

It’s getting close to that time of year when ‘best of the year’ claims on a range of things are announced. NZ Herald is getting votes for their New Zealander of the Year: People’s Choice Award

They don’t say how they have selected their list to choose from. Here they are:

Bronia Tindall & Fabrizio Clementi

They gave a homeless man a slice of their wedding cake.

Nathan Spitzer

“The builder, a contractor on farms in the Waikato, become the toast of Ngaruawahia when he jumped into the fast-moving Waikato River in November to rescue an 8-year-old girl who was near-hypothermic and clinging for her life to a pier.”

Lance O’Sullivan

“…admiration and respect for the Kaitaia GP was renewed when he stormed the stage at a local screening of an anti-vaccination documentary.

“Already, O’Sullivan’s impact on local public health has been immeasurable, including setting up a low-cost health clinic at Kaitaia Hospital and the MaiHealth programme, which offers a remote consultation to people without ready access to primary healthcare.

“He has also been instrumental in establishing programmes aimed at improving child health, including the Manawa Ora Korokoro Ora (Moko) foundation and the Kainga Ora (Well Home) initiative.”

He was named New Zealander of the Year in 2014.

Marnie Prickett

“Prickett, 33, a former staffer at Auckland Council programme Wai Care, and fellow advocates launched a charitable trust that became Choose Clean Water, which has proven a powerful and influential voice for our waterways.

“She and others travelled across the country, hearing from people who had watched their cherished rivers turn dry or green, before presenting a 10,000-strong petition to Parliament demanding tougher laws to make all waterways swimmable.”

Sarah Thomson

“…she decided to become the first person in our history to take the Government to the High Court — a bid that ultimately failed legally, yet succeeded in capturing the country’s attention.

“Among other points, Thomson alleged the Government had failed to review its climate targets, and that those New Zealand had pledged — slashing domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 11 per cent below 1990 levels and 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — were “unreasonable and irrational” against the seriousness of the issue.”

Andrew Nicolson

“Comeback hero Andrew Nicholson showed supreme courage when he won the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials in May.”

Steve Askin

“Decorated ex-SAS soldier and helicopter pilot Steve Askin died when his Squirrel chopper crashed while fighting the devastating Port Hills wildfire above Christchurch in February.

“In 2014, he received the NZ Gallantry Star for his efforts fighting in Afghanistan.

“While stories of his courage and selfless derring-do in fighting the Taliban — he was wounded in a five-hour shootout on June 29, 2011 after the Taliban stormed the InterContinental Hotel in Kabul — were shared, mum Leslie spoke about true heroes making a difference in people’s lives.”

Sarah Cato

“Detective Sarah Cato is battling incurable cancer — but that hasn’t stopped her battling major crimes. And it hasn’t stopped her raising money for other cancer sufferers.

“She was heavily involved in Operation Nepal — the brutal sexual assault and murder of 69-year-old Cunxiu Tian in her family home in Te Atatu in January last year.

“Cato is also instrumental in the ongoing investigation into the abduction and sexual
assault of an 11-year-old boy in Ranui.”

The people of Kaikoura and Waiau

“Many locals would say the last 12 months have been the toughest of their lives. And the only way they’ve got through it, is by standing together as a community. Looking after each other.”

They are all people who deserve some recognition, to varying degrees.

There’s another on the list who deserves a special mention.

Andrew Little

“On his first day as Minister of Justice Andrew Little said he would look again at the compensation given to Teina Pora for his wrongful conviction and 20 year imprisonment. Within a fortnight he had done just that and signed off on an inflation adjustment for Pora’s compensation — adding almost $1 million to bring it to a total of $3.5m.”

“Just three months earlier, Little had acted on another ‘right thing to do’ by stepping down as Labour leader. Little’s was not the easiest decision to make and may well have been made for him had he not handed over the job himself to Jacinda Ardern. But his decision, and endorsement of Ardern, made it a smooth handover — and gave Labour a chance at the election.”

I agree with the decision to properly compensate Teina Pora.But one act by a politician deserves a major award?

I agree that Little’s capitulation as Labour leader substantially changed the election campaign, but I’m not sure he deserves a lot of credit for that, some but not a lot. One could claim that Metiria Turei had more influence on the election campaign and outcome than anyone.

And the merits of the Government that Little’s stepping down helped enable are far from clear yet. As are his plans as a Minister.

I think it’s fair for Little to be considered as politician of the year, albeit with question marks over his standing compared to all other politicians – notably his successor, Jacinda Ardern.

But one politician as overall ‘people’s choice’? Seems an odd choice to be on the list.

You can vote here.