New Zealanders of the year: The newsmakers

The man who saved the nation from being sucked into a billion-dollar fantasy is missing from the list of New Zealanders of the Year. That's because Mike Lee, chairman of the Auckland Regional Council could also be argued to be the spoilsport who put a spanner into the works of a project that would have brought life to a jaded Auckland.

It all depends on which side of the stadium debate you stand, but the Lee split - although he could also have fallen foul of the rule which excludes politicians - illustrates the arguments which fired up the Herald office during the nomination process of this annual event.

There's no rule which restricts the list to humans but Jin the Otter didn't make the cut, although a Melbourne Cup winner might one day.

Some big stories which dominate the news for days don't throw up one person who can take the credit or shoulder the blame. The nation was united in the spectacle of the funeral of the Maori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, but the event was a community effort focused on Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia, a community who deserve a corporate accolade.

Other stories which enlivened the news year failed to produce candidates for different reasons. The billion-dollar effect of the Telecom leak was a stunner but that breach of confidence cost Michael Ryan his messenger's job.

Also, the Turner brothers put up a brave battle to keep Feltex in New Zealand hands but ultimately didn't succeed.

Bravery of a different sort came from Colin Roberts of Warkworth. He was doing a night shift as an earth-moving contractor on February 23 when he spotted 51-year-old Anthony Steiner floating down the Puhoi River after his vehicle had been swamped. Roberts called emergency services and wrapped Steiner up and held him in a bear hug to keep him warm. But he has already been named as Beaurepaires Highway Hero.

Karen Hallaway, her partner Jeff Brown and their children, 3-year-old daughter Vivian and 4-month-old son Benjamin, were also pulled out of a fast-flowing current when their car was swept away by floods on Tomarata Valley Rd towards Wellsford in August. But again the effort was a group venture with several people forming a human chain to hold the family until the vehicle could be towed out.

And then there was neurosurgeon Andrew Law who operated on Keith Richards, although not everyone agrees that getting the Rolling Stone back on stage was a good thing.

But once again the selection of New Zealanders of the Year displays that there are some remarkable people out there.

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