New Zealander of the Year Dame Anne Salmond is urging the country to keep its spirit of adventure alive.
Inspirational Kiwis from all walks of life gathered at a ritzy awards ceremony at the Langham Hotel in Auckland last night.
Dame Anne, a distinguished historian and environmentalist, took the top title for her work in building bridges between cultures and mapping the country’s history.
"If we all link arms and reach across, we could join forces to do anything," she said.
Following previous winner the late Sir Paul Callaghan's guidance, she said she wanted to make New Zealand a place where talent lives.
"We just need to have faith in steering New Zealand into the future."
The distinguished professor of Maori studies at Auckland University and award-winning author has spent her life documenting New Zealand’s shared cultural history.
Through teaching others, she keeps faith in the future.
"I see wonderful, young people coming through every year. They're full of talent, dreams and visions. I learn from them all the time. The future of our country is so bright."
Former prime minister Jim Bolger, patron of the awards, said Dame Anne is dedicated to making New Zealand proud of its Maori heritage.
“Dame Anne’s work has been lifting the opportunities of New Zealanders. She has also made us comfortable with who we are through her work in Maori studies.
The awards recognise outstanding New Zealanders in a whole range of fields, he said.
“People who have worked for remarkable causes and really made that extra special contribution to the life of New Zealand.”
Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae said she was a remarkable woman who had made a difference to the country.
"She just resonates with people and her passion comes through."
Dame Anne was chosen over plastic surgeon Swee Tan and business entrepreneur Bill Buckley.
Sir Jerry said the awards recognised New Zealanders making a great contribution to the country.
"The awards celebrate people in New Zealand and the community who are passionate about what they do."
The young New Zealanders of the Year title went to Sam Judd, chief executive of Sustainable Coastlines.
His company motivates communities to clean up the coastline and waterways of New Zealand.
"What we have done has taken a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work. We've done it because we love it."
He was up against Paralympic swimmer Sophie Pascoe and charitable dentist Assil Russell.
A champion of parenting, Ian Grant, took the Senior New Zealanders of the Year award.
He established The Parenting Place to guide and assist parents to better raise their children.
The country’s newest Local hero is Jim Morunga, who has not let his blindness stop him supporting disabled Maori and running suicide prevention programme Kia Piki te Ora.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren won the Community of the Year award.
Judges included Bolger, scientist Sir Ray Avery and Volunteer NZ manager Vanisa Dhiru.