Kaitaia GP Dr Lance O'Sullivan is among three finalists for the 2014 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Award, but the proud Northlander says while he doesn't do his job for awards, it's nice for the Far North to get some distinction.

The New Zealander of the Year and category winners will be named on February 26. The other two contenders for the top award from 250 nominations are Maori educator Dame Dr Iritana Tawhiwhirangi and CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust founder and trustee Catriona Williams.

The trio was named yesterday ahead of seven other semifinalists including All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, top lawyer Mai Chen and former Christchurch mayor Sir Bob Parker.

Michael Munford, of Dargaville, was among the 10 semifinalists for the Metlifecare Senior New Zealander of the Year Award, but lost out when the three finalists were named.


Chief judge Cameron Bennett said Dr O'Sullivan, Dame Iritana and Ms Williams followed a tradition of great New Zealanders who had changed our country for the better. "They're people who are passionate about making things happen. They lead, innovate and change the way we think about things."

Dr O'Sullivan was last year named Maori of the Year, followed by a Public Health award and a Sir Peter Blake Trust leadership award. He said yesterday it was "quite amazing and very humbling" to be a finalist.

"I don't do the work I do for recognition, but I'm happy for the Far North community to gain distinction. I'm really proud to be a Northlander."

Dr O'Sullivan grew up in Auckland and moved to Kaitaia eight years ago from Rotorua. In late 2012, he and wife Tracy set up a low cost health clinic named Te Kohanga Whakaora (The Nest of Wellness) at Kaitaia Hospital. The clinic turned traditional medical models on its head by giving the community a say in how it is run.

Dr O'Sullivan has also been instrumental in establishing programmes aimed at improving child health, including the Manawa Ora Korokoro Ora (Moko) programme that aims to give medical care to up to 2000 children, and the Kainga Ora (Well Home) initiative that fixes run-down homes, advancing the concept wellness begins in warm homes.

Dr O'Sullivan, 41, and his wife have seven children. When the Northern Advocate suggested that rated some sort of fine family award, he said: "That would go to Tracy".