Kristyl Neho, one of eleven Kiwibank finalists. Photo: Florence Charvin
Kristyl Neho, one of eleven Kiwibank finalists. Photo: Florence Charvin

A hundred medallists from across Aotearoa are now in the running for the 2024 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Award Te Pou Toko o te Tau.

From Kaitaia to Bluff, these individuals have been recognised for their exceptional contributions to Aotearoa’s communities – they are our frontline workers and unsung champions working tirelessly for their local communities.

Hawke’s Bay Te Matau-a Māui has 11 hero medallists who are finalists at this point in the selection process:

Alastair Needes – affectionately known to many as The Dogman for his unique skill in training, rescuing, and rehoming dogs – is a well -known face around the Te Matau-a-Māui Hawke’s Bay region and beyond. After dedicating his career to caring for dogs and their owners, Alastair’s life took an unexpected turn when Cyclone Gabrielle devastated his home in Pakowhai. He lost his home, possessions, and three beloved dogs. Alastair used his platform to share his mental health journey, courageously demonstrating deep vulnerability in the hope that his story might help others in the same position. Alastair’s impact has been felt across the community as an example of what positive change can come from trauma.

Amanda Withers – Amanda has volunteered countless hours to help build a stronger, more resilient rural community through education, health, sport and the environment. Recognised for her dedicated voluntary service to the Central Hawke’s Bay community, she has volunteered countless hours to help build a stronger, more resilient rural community through education, health, sport and the environment. Her service is far-reaching – including being an instrumental organiser and fundraiser for Flemington Playgroup, Flemington Hall Committee, Waipukurau Tennis/Squash Club and Pōrangahau Rugby Club Junior Rugby Prize Giving. 

Amelia Kaui – Amelia is the Hostel Manager of Hukarere Girls College, which was devastated during Cyclone Gabrielle. Vigilant in keeping her students safe, Amelia knew the area was prone to flooding – and regularly checked the state of the nearby Eskdale River. On one of her checks, she noticed signs of flooding and immediately made the decision to vacate the school – not waiting for advice from Civil Defence. Only a few hours later, deadly floods tore through the Hostel. Amelia’s quick-thinking, preparation, and ability to stay calm in crisis potentially saved many lives. Beyond that, her ongoing support to students and whānau in the weeks following gave much-needed peace of mind to students and their families.

Isabelle Crawshaw – In the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, Isabelle became an unexpected community champion – stepping up for the response and recovery effort in Pātoka, Hawke’s Bay. In the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, the small Hawke’s Bay farming community of Pātoka was cut off from the rest of the country by road, with no electricity and limited communications. During this tough time for the community, Isabelle was on hand – organising food parcels for the locals, being the central point of contact for relief groups, and providing regular updates on everything via social media channels.

Kristyl Neho – The founder of Maia Dreams, a Foundation that has impacted over 6,000 lives through transformative programmes – empowering young people to be their best selves. She is a Māori wahine, actress, director, speaker, writer, single mother, and rangatahi advocate from Te Matau a Māui, Hawke’s Bay. She stands as an inspiring force for change, grounded in her Māori heritage.

Lyn Gordon – Lyn manages a self-funded initiative, “Donations for Families in Need,” helping countless families across the Wairoa community. She is based in Hawke’s Bay, and a remarkable community leader dedicated to supporting families in need. She manages a self-funded initiative, “Donations for Families in Need,” serving the wider Wairoa community.

Maia Tipene – In the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, Heretaunga Hastings resident Maia Tipene stepped up with a remarkable response – devoting her time to provide assistance to those in need. As a volunteer with Taskforce Kiwi (TFK), she spent four weeks on the ground, assisting in debris clearance, welfare assessments, aid delivery, and even providing medical expertise. Maia’s leadership shone as she liaised with local organisations and served as a Rotation Commander – all at just 22 years of age. Her commitment was unwavering, sacrificing her training schedule to support her community. Throughout her time deployed the team completed 2,627 hours of work, and Maia’s efforts and leadership made that impact possible.

Neela Neela – Based in Hawke’s Bay Te Matau-a-Māui, Neela is a true hero in her community. After Cyclone Gabrielle left many people stranded and in need of hot meals, Neela stepped up to the plate. She selflessly cooked and distributed over 700+ meals a day of delicious Thai food, offering them for free to families affected by the disaster. Her generosity extended to delivering hundreds of meals daily to hard-hit areas where families were struggling to rebuild their lives. Her compassion and kindness has touched hundreds of families, and even months later, Neela continues her efforts, providing essential support to the local community.

Syed Khurram Iqbal – Syed, a Pakistani professional living in Hawke’s Bay since 2017, is dedicated to uplifting and supporting migrant and refugee communities across Aotearoa. He has made a significant impact on his community by helping migrant and refugee communities, particularly those from Middle Eastern and Shia Muslim backgrounds, integrate into New Zealand life. Through his “Connect the Unconnected Project,” he has improved English language skills, provided legal guidance, and assisted with employment. In 2021 he became the first Muslim Justice of the Peace appointed in Hawkes Bay—a remarkable achievement that resonated widely. Syed’s leadership is evident through his involvement in various committees and as a coach for Kiwi Kids cricket. He also played a crucial role as an interpreter after the 2019 Christchurch Mosque attacks.

Tim Hunter – Tim Hunter was a lifelong resident of Taradale, who became an integral part of the Atawhai retirement village community. For over forty years, Tim volunteered as a handyman from 9am to 5pm every weekday, not only beautifully maintaining the village but also offering friendship and a listening ear to the many people who live there. Tim’s intellectual disabilities proved to be a unique gift offering perspective and outlook that brought comfort and joy to Atawhai’s retirees, brightening their days with laughter and conversations. Tim continued to volunteer, showing remarkable courage and resilience until his passing in October 2023 of this year. 

Troy Duncan – Troy Duncan demonstrated everyday heroism during Cyclone Gabrielle by saving lives through daring rescues. While faced with the devastation of his own property, Troy leapt to get others to safety – rescuing neighbours with an inflatable boat. In the aftermath, He took the lead in organizing the Pakowhai community, creating a Facebook page for residents to share information and support each other. He also engaged with council representatives, met with MPs and the Prime Minister, and advocated tirelessly to ensure that decision-makers understood the unique challenges faced by his community.

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air


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