A senior police officer charged with kidnapping is set to be awarded a Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero medal.
Last month Detective Inspector Hurimoana Dennis - a strategic adviser in Maori affairs for NZ Police - was charged with kidnapping, along with Sergeant Vaughan Perry. The pair have pleaded not guilty and will reappear in court in February.
The charges relate to an alleged mock arrest in a bid to end a relationship between two teens.
The Weekend Herald can reveal that Dennis will be presented with a Kiwibank Local Hero medal on Wednesday.
Dennis has been selected along with 65 others - including Olympic medal-winner Eliza McCartney, My Food Bag founder Nadia Lim and comedian and mental health campaigner Mike King - as recipients of Auckland region Local Hero medals.
The award recognises ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their local communities.
Dennis is the chairman of Te Puea marae, which made national headlines for helping out Aucklanders badly affected by the housing crisis during the winter months.
The charitable trust generated huge public support after it welcomed families and individuals who had been living rough in cars, garages and on the streets.
Volunteers also flocked there to help feed, clothe and provide shelter for the growing homeless.
"It's an awesome privilege," he said of the honour.
"The marae helped 181 people, at least 100 of them children and had over 1200 volunteers since it opened its doors.
"Kiwis have a great generosity of spirit. It showed how the marae and communities stepped up to take responsibility for each other - not relying on government officials and politicians."
But he said that with the recent charges, the past few months had been "hell" for him and very stressful for his family.
He was tired of being the "big brown elephant in the room where everyone's talking about you, but not talking to you. The irony hasn't escaped me that I am being feted on the one hand and slated on the other."
The Kiwibank Local Hero awards' Auckland ceremony will be held at Motat.
Kiwibank national awards manager Glyn Taylor confirmed they were aware of Dennis' kidnapping charge.
"We understand they are charges not that he has been found guilty," he said.
"He was nominated before those charges became official. We were certainly aware of the circumstances but until such time it goes before the courts his nomination stands".
He said Dennis' nomination for a Local Hero medal "centred around the work he's done with the homeless crisis, which was serious, and his work with the marae".
"We felt it would be appropriate to continue with the recognition in that regard."
Dennis' friendship with an influential Maori family triggered the events leading to his suspension in September last year.
They disapproved of their grandson's relationship with the girl and it is claimed that they turned to Dennis for advice. A complaint was laid with the police and the boy was formally warned about underage sex.
But the relationship did not end and it is alleged that Dennis arranged for the boy to return to the Auckland Central police station. He attended, with his parents, and was told he could be charged with a sex crime if he continued seeing the girl.
Living with family in Sydney was suggested as a solution, so the teenager agreed to move there - after being put in a cell in the station.
The alleged mock arrest arranged by Dennis was to show the risks and potential criminal consequences of underage sex, according to a source.
Dennis was also embroiled in a political stoush when a press secretary for Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett leaked information about Dennis being under police investigation.
The minister denied this was deliberate but later apologised.