Doctor named New Zealander of the Year

Last updated 23:21 26/02/2014
lance o'sullivan
NEW ZEALANDER OF THE YEAR: Lance O'Sullivan

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Influential Northland general practitioner Lance O'Sullivan has been named Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

Prime Minister John Key presented O'Sullivan with the award at a ceremony in Auckland this evening.

The Kaitaia-based doctor was honoured for his leadership, vision and advocacy in healthcare.

Accepting the award, O'Sullivan said: "We don’t do what we do for recognition, but when nights like this happen it helps us go forward for another day, another week, another month, another year."

O'Sullivan and his wife, Tracy, established low-cost health clinic Te Kohanga Whakaora (The Nest of Wellness) to make basic healthcare more accessible for people in the Far North.

He also set up Northland's first fulltime, school-based health clinic, which provides medical care to 2000 children across the region.

His Kainga Ora (Well Home) initiative fixes rundown homes in the community and promotes the idea wellness begins in safe, warm homes.

Speaking to his whanau and community, O'Sullivan said: "I am proud to receive this award as your husband, your brother, your father, your mate.

"New Zealand has given me so much. On behalf of everyone here tonight, I would like to confirm my commitment to continuing to make New Zealand a great place for us all."

O'Sullivan was chosen ahead of CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust founder Catriona Williams and Maori educator Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi.

"Lance O'Sullivan's passion, drive and unwavering commitment to eradicating poverty-related illnesses are exactly the kind of qualities we look for," chief judge and veteran journalist Cameron Bennett said.

"All the winners and finalists are examples of our nation at its very best."

Key said: "The reality of what makes New Zealand really remarkable is its people. They have incredible talents and bring those to bear for the benefit of all Kiwis."

Choreographer and dancer Parris Goebel has won Kiwibank Young New Zealander of the Year.

She and her Palace Dance Company have showcased New Zealand dance on the international stage. 

Presented by the Minister of Youth Affairs, Nikki Kaye, Goebel dedicated the award to her parents. 

“I’m so overwhelmed. This is such an honour. I never thought chasing my dreams could lead to such a prestigious award,” the 22-year-old said. 

Tauranga businesswoman Frances Denz took away this year's Senior New Zealander award.  

As a business educator, she has helped thousands of people and people with disabilities to start businesses and find employment.  

“People from all sorts of backgrounds can achieve wonders. We are a wonderful place, I want us all to work to achieve magic,” she said. 

Chief scientific officer and co-founder of the pioneering sustainable fuel company, Lanzatech, Dr Sean Simpson, was the winner of the inaugural Sanitarium Innovator of the Year. 

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Dr Simpson, who lead his company into China, emphasised the importance of innovation for New Zealand’s future. 

“Innovation is critical in our economy. New Zealand has a long history of innovation, we are innovators,” Dr Simpson said via a recorded message from Chicago. 

Cecilia Sullivan-Grant, who inspired young people in Dunedin to take up apprenticeships when the trades had gone out of fashion, was the Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year. 

“To me I am not a hero, it is the people I work with.  I am a farm girl from South Canterbury, and I dearly love my country,” she said. 

The Mitre 10 Community of the Year award was given to the New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups, for their support for victims of crime and trauma, including homicide, suicide,  and serious and grievous assaults.

Each winner received $5000 and a custom-made trophy.

- Fairfax Media

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