Kaitaia GP Lance O'Sullivan named New Zealander of the Year

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Dr Lance O'Sullivan and his wife Tracey at their GP clinic 'Te Kohanga Whakaora'. PICTURE/PETRINA HODGSON
Dr Lance O'Sullivan and his wife Tracey at their GP clinic 'Te Kohanga Whakaora'. PICTURE/PETRINA HODGSON

Kaitaia GP and public health hero Lance O'Sullivan has been named New Zealander of the Year.

The gong is in recognition of Dr O'Sullivan's initiatives to improve the health of Maori and children in the Far North.

The accolade presented in Auckland on Wednesday night follows him being named Maori of the Year last year, along with 2013 Public Health Champion and a Sir Peter Blake Trust leadership award.

His Kaitaia-based health projects have included free medical clinics, the school-based Manawa Ora Korokoro Ora health services for over 2000 children in the Kaitaia area, his low-cost clinic Te Kohanga Whakaora providing basic healthcare and the Kainga Ora (Well Home) project. The housing improvement programme sprang from his realisation that improving people's homes was more effective in improving their health than writing prescriptions for recurring respiratory and other illnesses of poverty.

Dr O'Sullivan's efforts for a community approach to helping overcome poverty-related health and wellbeing issues included challenging 2013 Far North mayoral and council candidates to cut the number of pokie machines in the district.

The father of seven said he was proud and motivated to be helping raise children who had a good outlook and chances and wanted similar aims and outcomes for other Maori.

"Lance O'Sullivan's passion, drive and unwavering commitment to eradicating poverty related illnesses are exactly the kind of qualities we look for," said chief judge Cameron Bennett. "He's a fine choice to carry the mantle of 2014 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year."

Dr O'Sullivan's New Zealander of the Year citation noted that he had identified a high level of health needs in an impoverished region of New Zealand, and set about using his skills as a medical doctor to assist the community.

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