Helen Kelly the popular choice among New Zealander of the Year nominations

More than half of the 187 nominations for New Zealander of the Year thus far have been for Helen Kelly.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

More than half of the 187 nominations for New Zealander of the Year thus far have been for Helen Kelly.

Helen Kelly is leading the nominations for New Zealander of the year.

But there is only one prize the former Council of Trade Unions president is interested in - a win in her ongoing campaign for Kiwis to have access to affordable medicinal cannabis.

Kelly was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer lastin February 2015 and uses cannabis to manage her pain relief.

MORNING REPORT/Radio New Zealand

A new poll shows more than 80% of people want cannabis to be legalised or decriminalised for terminal pain relief.

So far 187 nominations for Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year 2017 have been made, and more than half of them are for Kelly.

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She was nominated last year too, but Kelly said that while it was "flattering, I suppose" what she really wanted was a law change.

Helen Kelly, former President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, stepped down from the role after her cancer ...
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Helen Kelly, former President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, stepped down from the role after her cancer diagnosis and has spent her time since battling for Kiwis' affordable access to medicinal cannabis.

"I don't need awards. If the Government were to decriminalise cannabis that would be better than any award, or anything, really."

As the race for the New Zealander of the Year crown heats up, the issue close to Kelly's heart is front and centre.

Polling in the debate about cannabis law reform has revealed a supportive public. A recent NZ Drug Foundation survey of 15,000 Kiwis found 64 per cent of respondents think possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use should be either legal or decriminalised.

The survey also found 82 per cent thought cannabis use for terminal pain relief should be either legalised or decriminalised, while 79 per cent were in favour of cannabis being used for pain relief.

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New Zealander of the Year contenders are eventually short-listed to ten by a panel of judges, who then choose the winner.

Last year veteran broadcaster John Campbell received the most nominations, but former All Black captain Richie McCaw was crowned out favourite Kiwi.

The previous year, investigative journalist and Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager received the most nominations but The Warehouse Group founder and director Sir Stephen Tindall won for his business and philanthropy.

Nominations for New Zealander of the Year close on September 30. The winner will be announced in December.

TOP NOMINEES

* Helen Kelly – former trade unions president
* Valerie Adams – shot put Olympian
* Hurimoana Dennis – chairman of Te Puea Marae
* Michelle Dickinson – director of Nanogirl Labs ltd.
* Kelly Dugan - founder of SmileDialNZ
​* Andrew Judd – New Plymouth mayor
* Dr Patrick Kelly – Starship Hospital's child protection team clinical director
* Bill Kerrison – for services to conservation
* Duane Major and Adam Gard'ner – founders of Awaroa Beach crowdfunding campaign
* Henare O'Keefe – for services to at-risk youth and family violence protection
* Major Campbell Roberts - Salvation Army national director of social policy
* Annah Stretton – founder of Reclaim Another Woman
* Frances Valintine – founder of The Mind Lab
* Rodney Wayne – for services to education in hairdressing

 - Stuff

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