Key Points:

The founding member of Ngati Ranana, the London Maori cultural group, is 2009 New Zealander of the Year in Britain.

Esther Jessop was presented with the award at the New Zealand Society's annual Waitangi Day dinner at the Millennium Hotel in London.

Previous winners of the award, which was established by the society in 1999, include golfer Michael Campbell, Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon, and celebrity chef Peter Gordon.

Society president Helen Campbell said the award recognised the outstanding contribution that a New Zealander or British national had made in presenting a positive image of New Zealand in Britain.

The award was presented to Mrs Jessop in recognition of her achievements in being one of the founding members of Ngati Ranana and her continuing contribution and support of Ngati Ranana and the wider New Zealand community here in Britain and elsewhere, she said.

Mrs Jessop said that winning the award "would be a wonderful reward not only for myself but for all of us here in Ngati Ranana, the London Maori cultural club, in this our 50th anniversary year".

"I really see this award as a tribute to all those members who have passed through Ngati Ranana and gone on to fine achievements in their lives and careers.

"I feel proud that over the years we have been able to extend people's awareness in Britain and Europe of our country and our culture," she said.

The other two finalists were Sir Graeme Davies, vice-chancellor of the University of London, and Dr John Hood, vice-chancellor of Oxford University.

- NZPA