Equal pay champion Kristine Bartlett has been named the Kiwibank 2018 New Zealander of the Year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern presented the award to the rest home carer who campaigned for pay equity on behalf of 55,000 low-paid, mainly female care and support workers.

Her hard work saw her pay, which was just over the minimum wage, $15.75, jump to $23.50, with further pay rises over five years to $27 an hour.

The settlement equated to $2b over five years.


The award was given at a cermony on Thursday night at the The Cordis Auckland hotel.

For five years Bartlett fought through court cases and appeals until the courts agreed to raise wages for the aged-care sector

Workers in aged residential care, home support and disability services also received pay rises.

Bartlett's case had argued caregivers, male and female, were paid poorly because their job was done mainly by women.

Although she was employed by Terranova rest home, her wages were effectively set by a Government subsidy paid to the rest home by the Ministry of Health.

The award's Chief judge, Cameron Bennett, said Bartlett's "enormous personal sacrifice" had changed the lives of thousands of New Zealand's lowest paid workers who provided vital health and wellbeing services to many vulnerable Kiwis.

"Kristine embodies the values of fairness, decency and equity that New Zealanders have long held dear.

"She didn't seek out admiration or special recognition for what she helped achieve. She saw a need and had the courage of conviction to take action. That makes her a thoroughly worthy recipient of this year's supreme award."


Previous winners of the award include Hunt for the Wilderpeople director Taika Waititi and former All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.