Inspirational acts of bravery, kindness, and community spirit were rewarded at the South Island region's Pride of New Zealand Awards in Christchurch tonight.

Finalists representing Nelson, Balclutha, and Christchurch will now go on to a national awards ceremony in Auckland on September 10 to announce the overall winners, along with the winner of the TSB Bank Peoples' Choice vote.

The finals will be judged by a panel featuring broadcaster Judy Bailey, Willie Apiata VC, Sir Peter Leitch, TSB Bank CEO Kevin Murphy and APN New Zealand CEO Jane Hastings.

The inaugural Pride of New Zealand Awards is supported by the New Zealand Herald and APN regional newspapers, with The Hits radio station and TSB Bank.


Bravery/Heroism Award -

Kyle Paki Paki, Philip Walker, Adam Black and Gary Miller had never met before a cold Saturday last July.

But their combined actions - selflessly diving into Saltwater Creek, near Port Nelson to drag trapped passengers out of an underwater crashed car - saved two lives and earned praise from the Fire Service, police and the family of those they saved.

Jan Fa'avae, 68, died but the men managed to save her husband Filemoni, 69, and two-year grandson Ali Fa'avae-Mika.

Mr Paki Paki said that day still haunted him, but added: "I am proud to have done what we did do to save a life."

Community Spirit Award -

Balclutha woman Rachel Jenkinson has spent almost two years trying to brighten things up for youngsters who are forced to spend long periods away from school and home because they have to be in hospital.

The mother of three began baking cakes for youngsters in hospital before launching Operation Sugar charity which now includes 850 bakers from around New Zealand.

Each baker is assigned cakes throughout the year - at least one a year - and put in touch with a child's family who then give the baker an idea of what they'd like for their child's birthday cake.

Emergency Services Award -

The remote Canterbury harbour hamlet of Akaroa was going to lose its ambulance service if they couldn't find a station manager. Jan Bourke stepped up to the mark and has hardly had time off since.

Mrs Bourke - who has a pager at hand night and day - exemplifies the St John core values of empathy, integrity, professionalism and teamwork, her nominator said.

The 56-year old, who also works as a caregiver at Akaroa's rest home, spends much of her St John time transporting patients or organising their transport by helicopter across the wild peninsula's peaks and coves.

Environmental Award -

Ex-farmer and ex-DoC ranger Ian Price is using his skills and experience to lead a restoration project at Paremata Flats by planting thousands of trees.

The Nelson man has been the central figure in efforts to plant 80,000 trees on the ecologically-supreme Paremata Flats in Cable Bay.

He has another 45,000 trees to go in within the next two years. When the planting is finished, it will be the first steps in restoring an alluvial forest in the extremely fertile flats, which are owned by Nelson City Council.

"We're already seeing rare native birds coming back," he said.

Fundraiser of the Year Award -

Jayne and Mike Rattray of Christchurch started the popular Trans-Alpine Scooter Safari, where participants to ride 49cc scooters 250km over the Southern Alps, to raise money for the Cancer Society.

After emerging in 2009 in support of a friend diagnosed with bowel cancer, it has grown every year and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It has also spawned two sister events - the Southern Scooter Challenge, a 220km journey from Bluff to Queenstown - and the Central Plateau Scooter Challenge, 270km from Wanganui to Taupo.

Mrs Rattray said the events can be tough but nothing compared with battling cancer.

Lifetime Achievement -

Tihi Puanaki is the founding member of the longest running Kapa Haka group in the South Island, Te Kotahitanga.

Through Kapa Haka, she has been credited with "turning lost souls into warriors".

Ms Puanaki, who is "almost 70", said kapa haka helps build confidence in young people.

"Children become empowered. Those young people might become the leaders of society."

Her kapa haka programme was considered outrageous by some for being inter-tribal and having a woman in charge, but Ms Puanaki silenced her critics by winning repeated titles.

"I come from a family of strong women who prepared me for conflict."

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