Filmmaker Taika Waititi named 2017 New Zealander of the Year

Publish Date
Thursday, 23 February 2017, 11:12AM

He's shown the world who we are, and now filmmaker Taika Waititi has been named the 2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

And, he's reacted in typically Kiwi fashion.


Waititi is in Los Angeles directing the latest instalment of Marvel's Thor series and wasn't able to travel home to receive the award - it was instead presented to his wife, Chelsea Winstanley, by Prime Minister Bill English.

But the Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Boy director told the New Zealand Herald by phone that he was "really happy and proud" to be chosen.

"It's a great honour and, yeah, It's pretty unexpected. I think if you're nominated for something like this, even if you won it's obviously a big surprise and sometimes you feel a bit like there's probably someone else more deserving, but at the same time, I'll take it.

"I'll humbly accept."

Although he had thoughts that others were more deserving, he also thought art was important and deserving of value.

"I think it's really important what artists and filmmakers and our writers, what they do for putting New Zealand culture on the map."

Chief judge Cameron Bennett said Waititi was an "exciting and inspiring example of who and what we are as Kiwis".

"Creative, courageous, audacious, subversive and downright funny, he's at the forefront of New Zealand filmmaking and the arts.

"Taika's outstanding contribution has not only been rewarded with record box-office success at home - he's also been highly successful in showcasing who and what we are to the world."

Two other high-achieving Kiwis were finalists for the supreme award.

They were an educator and researcher, Professor Mere Berryman, and the Salvation Army's social policy and parliamentary unit principal adviser, Major Campbell Roberts.

Winners were also announced tonight in five other categories.

Auckland lawyer Rez Gardi, who came to New Zealand as a refugee aged 6, was named Young New Zealander of the Year for services to human rights, and former Royal New Zealand Ballet general manager Sue Paterson was chosen as Senior New Zealander of the Year.

The Wellington woman was recognised for her services to the arts.

Auckland doctor Ed Gane, who leda team that developed a cure for hepatitis C, is the 2017 Innovator of the Year for services to health.

Another Aucklander, Hayden Smith, a tireless advocate for cleaning up our marine environments, is the 2017 Local Hero of the Year for services to conservation.

Community of the Year is Randwick Park in South Auckland.

The community came under a dark cloud with the 2008 murder of store owner Navtej Singh, but a small group of residents has worked together to transform the tiny suburb into a place where residents, especially youth, are encouraged and supported, according to New Zealander of the Year category biographies.

There were 375 nominations for this year's awards.


- NZ Herald