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2017 New Zealander of the Year announcement

Filmmaker, actor, artist and champion of New Zealand culture, Taika Waititi has been named 2017 New Zealander of the Year.

Waititi was unable to receive the award in person due to work commitments in Los Angeles.  His wife, Chelsea Winstanley, collected the award on his behalf from the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Bill English. Accompanied by Hunt for the Wilderpeople actor Julian Dennison, Winstanley also collected the Kiwibank kaitaka huaki cloak, Pouhine, from last year’s New Zealander of the Year, Richie McCaw.

Waititi has achieved success as a writer, director, actor, comedian, visual artist and story teller.  He is passionate about engaging youth in the arts as a positive outlet for creativity and is determined to raise awareness of youth suicide rates and child poverty.

A short film profiling Waititi can be viewed at

Waititi’s fellow finalists for the title of New Zealander of the Year were educator and researcher Professor Mere Berryman and Principal Advisor for the Salvation Army’s Social Policy & Parliamentary Unit Major Campbell Roberts.

Comment from the Chief Judge, Cameron Bennett

As 2017 New Zealander of the Year, Taika Waititi is 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.

His films represent the importance of whanau, of belonging and the challenges facing youth at the margins of society. He’s a special talent, a huge inspiration for young, up-and-coming film directors and producers and a thoroughly worthy recipient of this year’s supreme award.

Category Winners

  • University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year: Rez Gardi (Auckland Central) – for services to human rights
  • Metlifecare Senior New Zealander of the Year: Sue Paterson ONZM (Wellington) – for services to the arts
  • Mitre 10 Community of the Year: Randwick Park (Manurewa, Auckland) – for contribution to the economic, social and environmental health of their community
  • Sanitarium Innovator of the Year: Dr. Ed Gane (Auckland Central) – for services to health
  • Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year: Hayden Smith (Titirangi, Auckland) – for services to conservation


The annual New Zealander of the Year Awards are in their eighth year.  They celebrate people who use their passion for New Zealand to make our country a better place.  They are open to all New Zealanders to honour extraordinary Kiwis whose selflessness, creativity, and vision make us proud to call New Zealand home.

375 nominations were received for the title of 2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

Previous winners of the New Zealander of the Year Award are: Richie McCaw (2016), Sir Stephen Tindall (2015), Dr Lance O’Sullivan (2014), Dame Anne Salmond (2013), Sir Richard Taylor (2012), Sir Paul Callaghan (2011) and Sir Ray Avery (2010).

Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year: Taika Waititi (Piha)

Taika Waititi is a writer, director, actor, and visual artist. His contribution to New Zealand spans many years as one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent story-tellers. His films evocative and unique expression of New Zealand’s culture and identity are acclaimed domestically and internationally.  His short and feature films have broken box-office records and garnered international acclaim such as the Sundance Film Festival and Academy Awards.

Waititi’s creative flair and distinctive storytelling has shown New Zealand’s unique cultural traits to millions of people.  The humble and easy-going nature of his characters resonate with New Zealand and international audiences.   Combined with stunning visual cues of New Zealand life and landscapes, his films epitomise what makes New Zealand a truly special place to live. 

Waititi participated in the 2015 Cure Kids charity single (raising funds for research into cures and treatments for conditions affecting children) and has shown support to charities fighting child poverty. He is helping raise awareness of the lack of Māori and Pacific Island bone marrow donors, including registering himself as a donor.

Updated on 23rd February 2017