A Kaitaia doctor who has challenged the Government several times about the link between poverty and child health has been named Maori of the Year.

Lance O'Sullivan was announced supreme Maori of the Year/Nga Toa Whakaihuwaka on Waitangi Day.

Dr O'Sullivan also picked up the Hauora/Health category in the awards set up last year by current affairs programme Marae Investigates. Kerikeri High School received the Rangatahi/Youth Award.

Other Northland winners included master traditional waka navigator Hekenukumai Busby, who was recognised with a lifetime achievement award, Te Tohu Hiranga, and actor Rawiri Paratene took the Toi/Arts category.


Dr O'Sullivan made national headlines with his successful campaign for government funding to combat rheumatic fever, and was in the news locally when he parted ways with Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika. He next made headlines as he and his wife, Tracey, opened a free health clinic at Kaitaia Hospital late last year.

He was a key player in founding the school-based Moko (Manawa Ora, Korokoro Ora or Healthy Heart, Healthy Throat) at Kaitaia Primary, and took that same approach to his recent initiatives, Kainga Ora and his own health service, Te Kohanga Whakaora.

Announcing the Maori of the Year award, Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said Dr O'Sullivan's programmes in areas such as rheumatic fever and heart disease have been national examples of preventive medicine. Mrs Turia described Dr O'Sullivan as an inspirational Maori health provider and leader who was "being honoured for his absolute commitment to his people".

"This commitment has been shaped by his experiences as a general practitioner in Rotorua and Kaitaia; and in seeing the harrowing impacts of poverty on the health and wellbeing of families," she said.

"All of these approaches stem from his belief that good health is not simply a matter of 'treat and wait'."

Kerikeri High School won the Rangatahi/Youth category for its te reo and community problem-solving teams' efforts in embedding the Maori language in the school, and promoting and preserving it in the community.

The students have created bi-lingual signs for the school, teach other students and staff te reo, organise marae stays for the school's international students and run community-based workshops teaching te reo Maori and tikanga, their problem-solving coach Kim Rogers said.

Northern Advocate journalist and Paralympic gold medallist swimmer Cameron Leslie was a finalist in the sports awards, won by Lisa Carrington.