Sam Johnson named young NZer of year

21:45, Feb 16 2012
Sam Johnson
A GOOD JOB RECOGNISED: Sam Johnson last night with Vanisa Dhiru, right, an award judge and executive director of Volunteering NZ, and Volunteering NZ board member Alison Marshall, left.

Student Volunteer Army founder Sam Johnson has been named Young New Zealander of the Year.

Johnson's army helped Christchurch residents recover from the region's earthquakes with teams of students helping clean up the city after each major event.

He later worked with Japanese students to help them set up a similar scheme when parts of their country were devastated by tsunamis and earthquakes.

He met United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November 2010 and Prince William during his visit to Christchurch in March last year.

Johnson said last night that, far from being "drunken hooligans", Christchurch's student army showed that they were just as able to carry on the tradition of innovation and a "number-eight wire" mentality – "except we build it with computer code and put it on Facebook".

He paid tribute to many of his student colleagues who helped him in organising the thousands of students during the earthquakes.


"You are my heroes."

However, he said it was still a long road ahead for Christchurch.

"It's a struggle down there and our hardest work is yet to come," he said at the Auckland function.

The great thing about his work was getting through the difficult slog of helping to clean up the city but seeing students keep coming back to help.

"That is just wonderful," he said.

Oscar winner Sir Richard Taylor, who helped Wellington forge a role in the global film industry, was named Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year at last night's ceremony in Auckland.

Taylor was the co-founder of special effects company Weta Workshop, which had worked on world-renowned films such as The Lord of the Rings and Avatar.

He had shared in winning four Academy Awards for two of The Lord of the Rings movies, and was knighted in 2010 for services to film.

Taylor had set a shining example by being a global player in the international movie industry, yet chose to base himself in New Zealand, the award announcement noted.

He was selected ahead of World of Wearable Arts founder Dame Suzie Moncrieff and Dr Sharad Paul, whose Skin Surgery Clinic in Auckland gives free skin cancer checks and who also funds literacy programmes in low-decile Auckland schools.

Last year's winner was scientist Sir Paul Callaghan, a world leader in nanotechnology and magnetic resonance.

This year's Senior New Zealander of the Year, for those aged 60 and over, was Malcolm Cameron of Dunedin.

He was the founder of the Malcam Charitable Trust, which provides youth development and transitional support programmes in Otago.

Paeroa was named Community of the Year, recognition for work by volunteers to develop a safe and vibrant community.

The Local Heroes Award went to Hastings man Henare O'Keefe, for his extraordinary work with at-risk youth and family violence prevention.

Each winner received a custom-made New Zealand trophy and $5000 towards their work.

The awards were sponsored by Kiwibank and were presented in partnership with Fairfax Media, TV3 and The Radio Network.

The Press