Hawke's Bay will be well represented at the inaugural Pride of New Zealand Awards in Auckland next month.

Five of six winners from the lower North Island hail from the Bay, and were recognised for their positive community contribution during a regional ceremony at Hawke's Bay Today's Hastings office, on Wednesday August 6.

The lower North Island area also encompassed Manawatu-Wanganui and Wellington.

Local finalists include members of the Swannell family from Napier, who run a mobile soup kitchen for the homeless in Clive Square and took out a Community Spirit Award; Wade Kelly, of Hastings, who claimed the Bravery/Heroism Award for saving four people caught in a dangerous rip at Waimarama Beach; Napier's Hai Tong Too, whose role as a key advocate for minority groups, won a Lifetime Achievement award; and Kathleen Mato, of Wairoa, who secured the Environmental Award for her work as Whangawehi Catchment Management Group leader.


Colin Anderson, from Palmerston North, formerly from Dannevirke, was the Fundraiser of the Year, coming up with $17,000 cycling for CanTeen.

The only winner from outside Hawke's Bay was Wayne Stevens, of Wellington, who volunteered with Land Search and Rescue for 30 years.

Regional awards were judged by Silver Fern Maria Tutaia, The Hits radio personality Polly Gillespie, Yealands Estate Winery owner Peter Yealands, Starship director of fundraising Jo Cowie and NZ Herald editor Shayne Currie.

A national award ceremony, to name overall category winners and winner of the TSB Bank People's Choice vote, will be held at Auckland War Memorial Museum on September 10.

At a judging conference in Auckland yesterday celebrity judges Mad Butcher Sir Peter Leitch, former news anchor Judy Bailey and Victoria Cross hero Willie Apiata helped to decide the winners.

APN chief Jane Hastings and TSB Bank head Kevin Murphy were also part of the panel.

Profile videos of the 24 finalists were shown to judges, who then selected their favourites for each category.

Sir Peter said the calibre of nominees had made for some tough decisions.

Pride of New Zealand Awards are supported by the New Zealand Herald and APN regional newspapers, alongside The Hits radio station and TSB Bank.

An upper North Island award ceremony was held in Auckland, recognising Elliot Ikilei, Buddhi Wilcox, Greg Brownson, Todd Hamilton, Tony Scott and Glenn Miller.

A mid-North Island ceremony in Tauranga named Buddy Harwood, Julie King, Maera Maki-Anderson, Tony Howse, Peter Blackwell and Jenny Edwards as regional winners.

Christchurch hosted the South Island regional ceremony where Kyle Paki Paki, Philip Walker, Adam Black and Gary Miller; Rachel Jenkinson, Jan Bourke, Ian Price, Jayne and Mike Rattray and Tihi Puanaki were recognised.

People can cast their vote for the TSB Bank People's Choice winner, at: prideofnzawards.co.nz, until 11.59pm on Sunday September 7.