Andrew Dickens: NZer of the year a missed opportunity?

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Alex Braae argues Louise Nicholas (pictured) was a more deserving winner of the award for her work as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Alex Braae argues Louise Nicholas (pictured) was a more deserving winner of the award for her work as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The judging committee of the New Zealander of the Year has delivered their verdict. And the winner is Richie McCaw.

In the court of public opinion they've hit one out of the park. Not only is Richie successful, he's community minded with a slew of charities benefiting from his patronage, but the main reason for his success is skippering a team that made all New Zealand proud. Proud of our accomplishments and proud of a peculiar New Zealand character. Humble, talented folk who conquer the world and say, "Aw shucks. It's about the team". Richie, Sir Ed, Jackson and others.

But my colleague at ZB, Alex Braae, has stuck his head over the barricade today and said, "Hold On!". He argues that Richie was just doing his job - very well, we may all add - but for him the true New Zealander of the Year was the nominee, Louise Nicholas.

He argues that "an opportunity has been missed to truly commend someone who has battled for decades to change New Zealand for the better."

"An award like New Zealander of the Year should, and worryingly may well, reflect what we value as a nation. This year the award recognised someone who made us feel fleetingly good, like a nation of winners.

Nicholas' work as an advocate for survivors of sexual violence rather proves that we aren't, in fact, a nation of winners, but a nation which cuts funding women's refuge centres and rape crisis houses"

"McCaw's physical efforts are admirable. Nicholas' mental efforts are far more worthy of praise.

An opportunity has been missed to truly commend someone who has battled for decades to change New Zealand for the better."

Brave man but I get where Alex is coming from. So much so that I'm compelled to praise my New Zealander of the Year, Rob Fenwick.

McCaw and Nicholas are headline hoggers. Both have parlayed a particular fame and talent into a career and livelihood. This is not to dismiss their efforts. They're worthy nominees but there's something about Rob I've admired for a long time.

Michelle Hewittson once described Rob Fenwick as the busiest man in New Zealand. From a career in journalism and PR he struck out in business. Founding Living Earth, the compost company, because of a lifetime concerned with soil quality and the environment. From there he has given his life to the quality of New Zealand.

He is chairman of Landcare Research, deputy chair of TVNZ and, of course, founding member and current chair of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

He is trustee of the Zero Waste Trust, the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Motutapu Island Restoration Trust. Over at Ngati Whatua's broadcasting company Mai FM he is founding chairman. He chairs the Antarctic Heritage Trust and is director of Environmental Defence Society. Most recently he was appointed chancellor of the Order of St John.

He has done what Richie McCaw may do in the future. Taken his success and then applied it to helping the community. Spend a minute in his company and you'll be overwhelmed by the ideas and goals he has for this country.

Richie and Louise are both worthy of New Zealander of the Year. But in terms of accomplishments and years of service my vote was always with Rob Fenwick. But isn't this the point of these awards. To find that we have not one hero but many

- Newstalk ZB

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