Today, 26 New Zealanders are named as recipients of the NZ Bravery Awards. Some rescued drowning people. Some confronted criminals. Some were police, doing their job. Some were ordinary citizens. Four made the supreme sacrifice. All have one thing in common: faced with danger, they overcame their fear to help others. Here are some of their stories:

ETHAN KENNEDY

New Zealand Bravery Medal

No 12-year-old should have to stare down the barrel of a shotgun. Nor see his father in pain from a gunshot wound.

But Ethan Kennedy had the presence of mind to face down the man who had shot his father when a family split turned ugly.

"I didn't want my dad to die."

He told the gunman to get lost, and then went for help to neighbours.

His father survived and today Ethan says: "It makes me feel like I have done something good."


CHRISTOPHER JOWSEY

New Zealand Bravery Medal


Christopher Jowsey, from the RNZAF, knew he had just one chance to save a man being swept away by a torrent during the February floods.

Lowered from a helicopter, he grabbed the man, only to be dragged under and snagged on debris.

"It was the riskiest situation I've been in."

Thinking fast, he managed to get free and haul the man to safety. If he'd let go, the man would have been lost. Today, his family are "proud as punch" about his award but he reckons that anyone would have done it. 

JOHN VAUGHAN (deceased)

New Zealand Bravery Medal

Ese Falealii was your worst nightmare: erratic, angry and wielding a gun. When he entered the Mangere Bridge ASB Bank, John Vaughan kept calm.

He took the lead when Falealii demanded money. He wanted to take the attention off his colleagues. He tried to keep the others away from danger. Falealii took the money and shot Mr Vaughan in the head. His mother, Catherine Vaughan, summed up the award: "It's a fitting tribute."

BRIAN PICKERING

New Zealand Bravery Decoration


It was the worst weather lifelong tramper Brian Pickering had seen. Up on an exposed ridge in the Kaimanawa Ranges, he suddenly came across a father and son who were suffering from advancing hypothermia. Without help they could die. He bundled John Painting, 42, and Matt, 13, into their sleeping bags and forced them to stay awake by yelling at them above winds of up to 80km/h. He alerted rescuers - three of whom have also received an award - who got to them 17 hours later. Today Mr Painting says he owes his life and that of his son to Mr Pickering.

"I still think about him a lot. I find it hard to put into words."

JEANETTE PARK

New Zealand Bravery Star


DUNCAN TAYLOR (deceased)

New Zealand Bravery Medal


The two police officers went to a Rongotea farming family to warn about a dangerous young man.

Their assignment ended with Detective Constable Duncan Taylor shot dead and his partner, Jeanette Park, running for her life.

Park was shot in the buttock trying to escape from the young man, and had to flee to a neighbouring house.

She led the occupants to safety and called her colleagues.

Daniel Luff, 17, later surrendered.

Ms Park paid tribute to her former partner.

"It's fantastic news because he was the bravest person I know."

WILLIAM GILCHRIST

New Zealand Bravery Medal


Nobody else among the whitebaiters on the Arawhata River would go to the aid of Keith Millaras he was swept out to sea. It was too rough, too dangerous, too stormy. So 69-year-old Bill Gilchrist knew he had to act. "I did my lifejacket up a bit tighter than normal." And he headed out. With waves hammering his dinghy, he finally reached an exhausted Mr Millar. But it was too rough to pull him aboard. So he told him to hang on to the side and they powered in. Says Mr Millar: "I know I wouldn't be here without him."

Awards cover 4 categories

The New Zealand Bravery Awards, announced today by the Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright, consist of four levels.

New Zealand Cross: For acts of great bravery in situations of extreme danger.
New Zealand Bravery Star: For acts of outstanding bravery in situations of danger.
New Zealand Bravery Decoration: For acts of exceptional bravery in situations of danger.
New Zealand Bravery Medal: For acts of bravery. All awards bear the inscription "For Bravery - Mo Te Maia".

The awards are royal honours, and each person who receives one gets a certificate signed by the Queen and the Governor-General. He or she also receives a distinctive lapel badge.

The honours replace a variety of British awards, such as the George Cross and Queen's Gallantry Medal.

Anyone can make a nomination. The nomination form and a guide to the process can be obtained from the Honours Secretariat in Wellington, which administers all honours. Its website is: www.honours.govt.nz

Nominations are considered by a panel of experts, who advise the Prime Minister.

The awards will be formally presented by the Governor-General at a ceremony at Government House later in the year.