Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Pride of NZ Awards: Footage reveals how close family came to tragedy

Beginning today, the Herald profiles the 24 Pride of New Zealand national finalists before the big awards on September 10, when the most exceptional Kiwis in six categories will be recognised.

Elliot Ikilei: Bravery & Heroism Award

Footage of the moment a truck slams into the back of a small vehicle - minutes after its occupants were helped out of it - has been revealed for the first time.

Police have released dramatic CCTV footage showing what could have been a tragic accident had it not been for the quick thinking of South Auckland man Elliot Ikilei.

Mr Ikilei is the Upper North Island regional winner for the Pride of New Zealand awards in the Bravery & Heroism category.

The video shows a broken-down sedan sitting in the fast lane beneath an overbridge, before a large truck hurtles into its rear, completely destroying the back of the vehicle and passenger side where its occupants had sat minutes before.

The force of the impact pushed the car approximately 20m along the road.

Before the smash, Mr Ikilei, a 37-year-old Papakura man, was travelling on his motorbike on the Southwestern Motorway near Hillsborough, last August, when he came across the vehicle parked awkwardly in the fast lane - clearly broken down.

It was 8pm, raining and the power in the area was out. Cars were zooming towards it and slamming on their brakes as they saw the small vehicle at the last minute.

Click here to see the CCTV footage.

CCTV footage of the moment after the truck hit the car stranded in the fast lane.

"I was waving and yelling: 'Stop, stop!' There were lots of cars that screeched on the brakes," he said. "It was pretty dangerous."

The father of one ran out to the car, where three occupants - including an elderly couple in the back seat - were inside. He got the driver out and helped her elderly parents safely across to the side of the road.

He then positioned his motorbike behind the family's car with its hazard lights on.

A few minutes later, a truck that failed to see the flashing bike lights and vehicle smashed into them, wrecking the bike and severely damaging the car.

The family were left shocked and upset and Mr Ikilei has not seen them since that night.

Mr Ikilei was last year honoured in the police's annual bravery awards for his act - one authorities say possibly saved three lives.

A tutor for Best Pacific Institute, Mr Ikilei is also a Conservative Party candidate for Manurewa.

Migrant's life dedicated to helping others settle in

Hai Tong Too: Lifetime Achievement Award
For Napier man Hai Tong Too, helping those in need is his way of giving back to the world.

Hai Tong too said he had always enjoyed helping others.

"I can't say no - I'm one of those people. If somebody rings me and asks me to come and help them with something, I can't say no to them. I want to help them."

The 71-year-old is a national finalist for the Pride of NZ Lifetime Achievement Award, having won the regional award for the Lower North Island.

He has been nominated for his strong advocacy, leadership and connection with ethnic groups - particularly the Chinese community - in Hawkes Bay for more than 40 years.

Mr Too is a well-known figure within the local migrant community, having been the president of the Hawkes Bay Chinese Association for 12 years.

He is the former head of the local Multicultural Association and helped to establish the Ethnic Association in the region. He has also taught martial arts for more than 30 years.

Mr Too said he had always enjoyed helping others, because he understood how daunting a new place could be.

Watch: Pride of NZ Awards: Hai Tong Too


"My father left China when he was very young. At the time, there was no food in the country so my grandfather took him to Malaysia and left him there, telling him this was the only way he could survive - my father was only 12 at the time.

"I help people by showing them how to integrate into New Zealand society."

Mr Too's nominator for the Pride of New Zealand awards, who wants to remain anonymous, has known him for almost 20 years and is still dumbfounded by the amount of work his old friend, whom he considers a mentor, continues to do for other people.

"His generosity is seen as a normal thing for his family - when in reality, it really isn't.

"It's tireless work and he doesn't do it for money or awards. He does it just to be satisfied knowing he's able to help somebody."

The NZ Chinese Association's national president, Gerald Wong, said Mr Too was one of the most dedicated people associated with the organisation, which has about 26,000 members.

Voting is now open for the TSB Bank People's Choice Award. From today the Herald will profiling each of the 24 national finalists. Voting closes 11.59pm on September 7. Decide who you think is the most deserving. You are only able to vote once, so choose wisely. You can register your vote here.

- NZ Herald

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