My pick for New Zealander of the Year is Kristine Bartlett. Throw in a damehood and a couple of SOE directorships as well -- heck, even the private sector could well use her gumption.

This battler has proved people can still stand up for their rights.

The Lower Hutt rest home worker has fronted an historic equal pay case which was won in the Supreme Court and implemented by the Government this week.

She campaigned tirelessly along with union E Tu to get better pay for care and support workers.


She argued care work was underpaid because workers were predominantly female. And her fight has resulted in a $2 billion pay rise to about 55,000 workers from July 1.

Workers will receive a minimum pay rise of between $4 and $7 an hour.

The case ran alongside the Government's working group set up to address the pay gap between men and women. While there has been some disagreement on which male and female dominated jobs to compare when seeking pay equity, in the end the Government has agreed to all 21 recommendations from the working party.

It's an issue that's gaining traction and, in an election year, will hopefully get the exposure it needs. The care workers' case ably demonstrates the exploitation of women in the workforce.

As a job it requires empathy, training, knowledge and fitness. It is demanding, yet it remained underpaid.

Pay rates compared unfavourably with other industries not dominated by women but with a similar type of work.

The gratifying decision by Government has been a long time coming. Five years ago Equal Opportunities Commissioner Judy McGregor went undercover to write a report about work in rest homes and described it as "modern slavery".

Equal pay for the same job is a relatively simple argument. Comparing similar types of work is another matter, and that is what has made Kristine Bartlett's gender equity battle -- and victory -- so important.