Climate change activist and new Kāpiti Coast district councillor Sophie Handford has jointly won the supreme award at the 2019 Wellingtonian of the Year awards.

"I was absolutely honoured and extremely humbled to receive this award alongside Tahir Nawaz," Sophie said.

"I did not at all expect it and the award is definitely not just mine.

"The award is for the hundreds of people who have come before me and fought for climate justice."


Handford won the youth award category for her work co-ordinating the nationwide School Strike for Climate which led to thousands of students lobbying the Government to take action on climate change.

"This award is for the Wellington organising team which has members as young as 8 as part of it.

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"It is a tribute to the 40,000 people who stood united on September 27 to demand that our Parliament treats climate change as the crisis that it is.

"This is only just the beginning of the movement in Aotearoa."

For the first time in 30 years the judges found it too close to call a winner and jointly awarded Sophie the award with International Muslim Association of New Zealand president Tahir Nawaz.

Nawaz won the community service category for his work bringing people of all backgrounds together following the terror attacks in Christchurch in March.

The judges said both Handford and Nawaz were recognised for their work in bringing people together for a better future.


"The awards night was phenomenal, there were so many kind and hard working people in the room who are changing lives."

The award tops of a big year for Handford who started the year running the climate strikes and has more recently won the Paekakariki-Raumati ward councillor role.

"This year has been nothing like what I expected it to be. The publicity around me has been all about the cause and the strikes which hundreds of people were involved with, so I am very grateful for this award.

"The first few weeks as a councillor have been amazing. I have already learnt so much and I know it'll be a constant learning journey."