Here, we announce the last two of our 10 finalists for the Herald New Zealander of the Year. We will announce the winner in tomorrow’s Weekend Herald.

School principal Banapa Avatea's quick thinking and decisive actions averted disaster in peak-hour traffic between Auckland and Waikato.

On February 14, the Papakura father of three and his 5- year-old son, Jordan, were on their morning commute to Huntly when they saw a 29- tonne truck veer across State Highway 1 into road barriers.

When Mr Avatea, who is principal at Huntly West School, accelerated to see what was happening with the truck, he saw the driver hunched over the wheel.

He called 111, turned on his hazard lights and headlights and drove in the middle of the two southbound lanes to prevent other traffic going near the out-of-control truck.


Mr Avatea estimated the speed of the truck to be about about 20km/h.

"There was heaps of traffic ... but I certainly wasn't worrying about the people behind me, I was thinking about the guy in the truck."

Eventually, as the truck neared Rangiriri, a collision with a barrier slowed it down.

Mr Avatea said he got out of his car and went over to the truck with another man who had also been following it.

They opened the truck's cab door, and Mr Avatea jumped inside while the second man applied his hand to the foot brake.

"I jumped into the cab and pulled up the handbrake and the truck stopped," he said.

Mr Avatea - who had done a first aid course - established that the driver was diabetic and stabilised him.

After ambulance staff arrived he and Jordan continued on their way to school.

"The thing is, we were just worried about the man in that truck and we just really wanted to make sure he was okay," he said.

As well as being praised by police, Mr Avatea was presented with the Governor-General's Anzac of the Year Award for his actions.

The award, which is in association with the Returned and Services Association, recognises New Zealanders who have demonstrated extraordinary comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment, consistent with the spirit of Anzac.

Sharing the love in Tokoroa - with soup

Julie King (right), from the charity Love Soup, in Tokoroa with volunteers from left - Sariah Peraua and Kelly Roberts. Photo / Christine Cornege

After learning about a family who were breaking up because of the abuse of then-legal synthetic drugs, Julie King decided to do something.

Instead of just campaigning outside a shop selling the drugs - which earned her death threats - Mrs King also set up a soup kitchen to try to foster community spirit.

The result, Tokoroa's Love Soup kitchen, has been hugely successful and attracts a range of people, including children, the elderly, families and single people.

As well as free meals each week, the hundreds that attend the Tokoroa East Bowling Club are also often entertained by local bands.

The movement has spread to Waitakere, Rotorua and Whangarei. Food is prepared and served by volunteers and money and food are donated, with Fonterra and Countdown big supporters.

Some volunteers at the kitchen, including high school students, have gained food-handling qualifications.

Mrs King was given the community spirit award at September's inaugural Pride of New Zealand honours.

But the mother of four, who is bipolar and suffers from depression, has said her work is therapeutic and the love that comes from the kitchen is like "medicine".

"It is not just about being fed but it is about forming friendships and social interaction."

Nicholas Jones

Other finalists

• Lucy Knight: Good Samaritan.

• Donna Collins and Sharon Mackie: Ebola fighters.

• Sol3 Mio: opera singers.

• Mary Quin: who took on the man behind her kidnapping.

• Brendon McCullum: Black Caps captain.

• Nicky Hager: Dirty Politics author.

• Buddy Harwood: burning-car hero.

• Professor Jane Harding: who developed a cheap treatment to help babies.