Kaitaia GP Dr Lance O'Sullivan has won a swag of awards since he was named a Public Health Champion in 2013. Later that year he received a Sir Peter Blake leadership award, and was named Maori of the Year. In 2014 he was named New Zealander of the Year and the country's most trusted New Zealander (behind former soldier Willie Apiata VC).

And last week he accepted another title, Communicator of the Year, from Toastmasters NZ. (The honour was conferred at the national conference in May but he could not be there, so it was presented at a function hosted by Kaitaia's On Top Toastmasters at Te Ahu).

Connie Hassan, New Zealand's Toastmaster of the Year in 2002, paid a warm tribute to Dr O'Sullivan in her introduction, describing him as a man of passion, energy, enthusiasm, commitment and belief in what he was doing.

She had first heard him speak not in a hall but in a small bedroom, where his audience was a terminally-ill woman, and had immediately been impressed.
"Communicating is about an ability to persuade people of your belief, passion and commitment, all of which add up to leadership," she said.


"It's about believing in something so much that you talk about it and act on it."
Dr O'Sullivan had those qualities, and with his wife Tracy in support "the whole package is there."

Dr O'Sullivan regarded leadership as engaging people, nurturing ideas, dreams and aspirations, but also being part of the audience.

He illustrated that by recalling hearing the United States Secretary for Indian Affairs earlier this year, which culminated in an invitation to dispatch a contingent of young Maori leaders to a conference of young native Americans in Washington.

He had addressed a gathering of the Corporate Law Association shortly after that invitation was extended, and left with $10,000 worth of sponsorship.

Three weeks later he had the $35,000 he needed.

"These young people will be great leaders," he said.

"We should be creating the people who will make me redundant - but not too soon; I have a mortgage."

Communication, he added, could break down barriers, and he was fortunate that his culture and his profession allowed him opportunities to share ideas about his country and how to be part of it.