They're the people who inspired us and made a difference. Some of them acted bravely in a single moment, others have given a lifetime of service to an important cause. And a couple put a smile on our faces in a year when we really needed something to feel good about.

The list of 10 people below is the Herald's pick of candidates for the People's Choice edition of Our Heroes 2019. The Herald has had a proud record for more than 25 years of saluting the people we value most, and Our Heroes is a new way of acknowledging them which builds on that tradition.

Our list covers a wide range of achievements because we believe heroism can take many forms. Now it's up to you to make the final selection and vote for the person here that you think most deserves the award this year.

You can read their individual stories and use the voting form at the bottom of the list to cast your vote by midnight Wednesday.

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The People's Choice winner will be announced along with Herald editors' own choice for Our Heroes 2019 in the Weekend Herald and on nzherald.co.nz next Saturday.

Hamish Walker

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, who talked a man out of jumping from a high ledge. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, who talked a man out of jumping from a high ledge. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It was 7.30am on New Year's Day when Hamish Walker and fiancée Penny Tipu had driven out of Lake Hawea township in search of a good place for a walk.

They were having a few days away before their wedding on January 5.

Walker was driving over the top of the dam when Penny alerted him to a man on a ledge below who looked ready to jump into the heaving water.

Walker approached him, careful not to scare him.

"Gidday mate, you don't look too flash up there," he said and climbed over the safety fence to join him on the ledge.

Walker, the first-term MP for Clutha-Southland, says he is reasonably good under pressure having worked as the jailer in the Dunedin police station and a former first-class rugby referee.

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"You've got 30 players yelling at you, captains yelling at you, coaches yelling at you, managers yelling at you, assistant referees in your ear, you're live on TV and you just learn how to deal with your emotions."

They talked about the man's family, his loving parents, and what would happen to his child without him.

"I said I'm not gonna leave you here mate. If you are jumping in, I'm following in with you."

Walker promised to get the man safely back to his family, and they left the ledge together.

Walker has not seen him since but it affected him deeply.

"For the next four days I just felt completely numb."

Hamish and Penny got married and are expecting their first baby early in the New Year.

Jazz Thornton

Jazz Thornton, director of the short film Jessica's Tree, about teenage suicide. Photo / Supplied
Jazz Thornton, director of the short film Jessica's Tree, about teenage suicide. Photo / Supplied

Nine months after she made an online video series about suicide, Jazz Thornton still gets daily messages telling her she's saved someone's life.

"There's been literally thousands of them," she tells the Herald. "It's just had this massive turnaround effect on people."

Jessica's Tree, a five-part NZ On Air-funded series directed and fronted by Thornton and screened on nzherald.co.nz, examines why her friend Jess took her life in 2015 and what her suicide can teach us.

It was made with the participation of Jess' family and friends.

"The whole series is about helping people understand what it is to be suicidal and then what you can do to help," said Thornton when it was released in March.

"I don't want people to watch this and 20 minutes later move on with their lives. I don't think you can watch this and not change the way that you think."

The series won best web series at the New Zealand TV Awards last month and has won several accolades at overseas festivals, including best woman filmmaker at the Barcelona Planet Film Festival.

Life since has been a whirlwind for Thornton, who has addressed the United Nations General Assembly and been to Buckingham Palace to talk mental health strategy with Heads Together, the mental health campaign co-ordinated by Princes William and Harry.

She has a book coming out early next year, followed by a documentary film which traces her journey. Plus there's a new project she says she can't talk about yet - but it promises to take the message of Jessica's Tree to an even bigger international audience.

Josh Thompson

Josh Thompson (left) took Joseph Broshahan as his support clown to his redundancy meeting. Photo / Supplied
Josh Thompson (left) took Joseph Broshahan as his support clown to his redundancy meeting. Photo / Supplied

When a clown mimed crying in a redundancy meeting earlier this year, he laid bare the pantomime that underpins these meetings.

Everyone knew how this would go. Papers would be handed over, formalities would be addressed and farewells would be said.

Josh Thompson, the ad guy invited into that meeting room, knew from the outset that things would not end well. He would essentially be little more than another extra in the familiar redundancy show playing out across corporate New Zealand.

Thompson wasn't satisfied with being a bit player in his own career story, so he took matters into his own hands by dragging a handsomely paid clown into the meeting with him.

It was a mischievously creative moment that would see the power shifted back into his favour.

A grainy photograph, taken from outside the meeting room, quickly travelled from a Herald newsroom around the world. And a moment that was meant to be a sombre, private affair became an international sensation.

"It felt a bit like you were getting to see something you shouldn't see," says Paul Shale, the CEO at Thompson's former place of work, FCB.

"It was really interesting to see that viral surge take it around the world and then have it dovetail back to radio in New Zealand before eventually getting killed on Reddit."

Rather than being upset about the leak and the chaos that ensued, Shale says there were actually a few valuable lessons to learn about how things become famous in the current cultural context.

The point here is that a genius bit of creativity captured on a shoddy smartphone camera can sometimes go a long way. And for his willingness to rip up the usual script, Thompson was rewarded with a new job at another major local ad agency.

Pania Newton

Pania Newton has become the reluctant face of the Ihumātao protest movement. Photo / Michael Craig
Pania Newton has become the reluctant face of the Ihumātao protest movement. Photo / Michael Craig

Media coverage may have made her the focus of the land and culture struggle at Ihumātao, but Pania Newton wants nothing more than to deflect recognition to those around her.

"This is theirs, to the people who have put in thousands of hours for the land," she said of being included in the Herald's Our Heroes list.

Every movement though, needs a leader, however reluctant.

She was there back in 2015, while at law school, when with five of her cousins they started SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) to stop Fletcher building nearly 500 homes near Ihumātao Village.

She was there at the United Nations, rallying international support for indigenous rights.

And she has been on the whenua throughout, lobbying the Government, the Auckland Council, and Fletcher.

She was there on July 23 this year, when hundreds of police officers arrived, as Fletcher delivered an eviction notice.

Thousands joined from across the country and, as pressure mounted, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a halt to the development until a settlement – supported by all parties – was reached.

Along with finally gaining momentum for their cause, the movement – regarded as this generation's Bastion Point – has proven a lightning rod for a national discussion around Māori rights and the Treaty settlement process.

"It has been amazing to be part of this historical moment, to see all of the public get behind it," Newton said.

"There has been a shift, to recognise cultural landscapes, uphold tangata whenua rights and Te Tiriti o Waitangi."

Veyda-Blu Toko-Gaylor

10-year old Veyda-Blu Toko-Gaylor took control of the steering wheel of her father, Reuben Gaylor's car after he had a seizure. Photo / Supplied
10-year old Veyda-Blu Toko-Gaylor took control of the steering wheel of her father, Reuben Gaylor's car after he had a seizure. Photo / Supplied

Veyda-Blu Toko-Gaylor instinctively knew what to do when her father slumped at the wheel of their car as they drove along a 100kmh road.

The 10-year-old Hamilton schoolgirl immediately grabbed the steering wheel after witnessing dad Reuben Gaylor have a seizure and pass out.

As Gaylor's foot slipped off the accelerator, Veyda-Blu was able to guide the car to a halt on the side of State Highway 39 in the Waikato on February 8.

"It was just my first instincts to put my hand on the wheel and keep it steady," said Veyda-Blu, who had not previously seen her dad having a seizure.

"The roads were bendy but as the car was slowing down I was able to pull us over to the side."

The car struck a glancing blow on the side of a bridge before Veyda-Blu called 111.

"Some people from behind us came and checked on me. Before that I called the ambulance, which is something I've learnt to do at school."

While waiting for the ambulance, Veyda-Blu called her mother and calmly explained the situation.

She then called Gaylor's brother in Pirongia and explained the ambulance was on its way and everything was fine.

When emergency services arrived, the youngster relayed to paramedics her father's details, his previous history of seizures and exactly what happened.

Veyda-Blu's mum, Tarryn Toko, said she was proud of the maturity her daughter showed in the life-or-death situation.

"She saw her father having a seizure, which she had never seen before, and I think about just how scary that is for an adult to witness," Toko said.

"For her to see that for the first time and push through that and show the maturity to take the wheel and bring the car to a safe stop, that is just incredible bravery."

Blair Vining

Terminally ill Southland father Blair Vining and his wife Melissa at the Auckland Hospital oncology ward, for the announcement of a new national cancer agency in New Zealand. Photo / File
Terminally ill Southland father Blair Vining and his wife Melissa at the Auckland Hospital oncology ward, for the announcement of a new national cancer agency in New Zealand. Photo / File

It takes an extraordinary person to be told they're dying of cancer and then spend every living moment left benefiting the lives of those around them - but that's who Blair Vining was.

The father-of-two was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in October last year and was given three months to live. He was then told to wait eight weeks for an "urgent appointment" with an oncologist but put up a fight and was seen almost immediately.

As a result, he lived to see his youngest daughter Lilly become a teenager, see his eldest daughter Della-May flourish in her role as head girl and renew his wedding vows with his wife Melissa.

But there was one itch the 38-year-old couldn't let go - a "broken health system".

Vining launched New Zealand's biggest ever cancer petition, gaining 150,000 signatures, calling on the Government to set up a cancer agency to end "postcode lottery" care which varied wildly across the country.

He lived to see his final wish come to fruition when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and health minister David Clark announced the establishment of a national cancer agency on September 1.

Vining died on October 10. Melissa said if her husband was still alive he would have said: "I'm just an ordinary guy doing what anyone would do."

"But to us there was nothing ordinary about his love for life, family, friends and New Zealanders.

"His unique positive outlook and courage to fight for us and New Zealand whilst he was fighting for his life will bring us comfort, hope and pride for the rest of our days."

Auckland Zoo staff and volunteers

Auckland Zoo vet nurse Kylie Martin holds a chick, while Auckland Zoo vet Dr Melanie Leech prepares the bird for injection. Photo / File
Auckland Zoo vet nurse Kylie Martin holds a chick, while Auckland Zoo vet Dr Melanie Leech prepares the bird for injection. Photo / File

Years of patient kākāpō breeding nearly came unstuck this year when a breakout of fungal infection "aspergillosis" in April threatened to wipe out much of the population on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island.

Auckland Zoo was quick to convert all available space into temporary pens and an around-the-clock feeding, cleaning and monitoring roster implemented.

Since the breakout, zoo staff and volunteers spent 6000 hours and counting working to save as many kākāpō as possible.

As of December 3, nine had died, but the number could have been a lot higher, Dr James Chatterton said.

"We've had much more success than we dared hope for, particularly when we were in the thick of it," he said.

"There were some real scary moments [but] we've had well more than half survive."

Twenty-eight kākāpō had been through the zoo for assessment since April, the most at any one time was 19.

Chatterton, Auckland Zoo's veterinary services manager, said the outcome would not have been possible without the hard work of staff and volunteers.

A massive outpouring of public support was also hugely beneficial, he said.

It was humbling for the zoo staff and its volunteers to be recognised as an "Our Heroes" nominee in 2019, Chatterton added.

"It's really nice to be thought of in those terms, it's not something we expected and we certainly don't do this because we want praise.

"It's a privilege to work with kākāpō and have them around. Hopefully we can help contribute to having them around for a lot longer."

Peter Simpson

Peter Simpson received a police award after he helped stop a man who was fleeing after allegedly murdering his former partner. Photo / File
Peter Simpson received a police award after he helped stop a man who was fleeing after allegedly murdering his former partner. Photo / File

On July 29, Massey man Peter Simpson was driving home from dropping his kids at school when he saw what he thought was a woman lying injured after being hit by a car.

He pulled over to see if he could help and ended up being involved in one of the most high-profile arrests after an alleged murder in Auckland this year.

Just after 8.30am, a woman was stabbed multiple times on Westgate Dr and died soon after from her injuries.

Her ex-husband has been charged with her murder and is before the courts.

The alleged murderer has been granted interim name suppression, along with his former spouse and their son.

He is also charged with breaching a protection order.

"I happened to notice someone lying on the grass with two people on the footpath," Simpson told the Herald of the incident.

"I started talking to the victim and then she passed ... there was a gentleman way up the road who said that the [alleged killer] was leaving.

"So I jumped in my car and left the site."

Another member of the public pointed out the alleged killer and Simpson started to move towards the man's car, slowly, in a bid to stop him leaving.

"I couldn't do much where I was so I went to the next step and helped to apprehend the person," he explained.

"I didn't ram it, he ran into me. I slowed up to stop him and he drove into me."

As a result of Simpson's actions, the man was arrested within minutes of the alleged murder.

Simpson later received the Waitematā Police District Commander's Certificate of Appreciation.

Dr Nikki Turner

Associate Professor Dr Nikki Turner, GP and director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) Photo / Mark Mitchell
Associate Professor Dr Nikki Turner, GP and director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) Photo / Mark Mitchell

The measles epidemic that swept the country this year came to demonstrate a simple truth: New Zealand's health inequities are very real.

The outbreak, which, at its peak, affected hundreds of people in Auckland and elsewhere, was the result not of anti-vaccination agitators but a combination of historic and systemic problems with immunisation uptake.

While New Zealand has still come some way toward trying to reach its national target of having 95 per cent of all infants fully immunised by age 2, those challenges – especially evident among our poorest communities – remain.

Trying to overcome them has been a life-long mission for Associate Professor Nikki Turner, director of the University of Auckland's Immunisation Advisory Centre.

From her tireless work in the public health sector and at the clinical frontline, to fronting countless media interviews, Turner has helped to demystify the evidence behind immunisation and counter the many myths spread about it.

Sometimes, that profile has made her a target.

"I get really angry people writing really bitter mail – but I always think, there's something behind their story," she said.

"What's important, I think, is the common touch: if we can interact with each other and communicate, we can overcome the barriers to trust. Otherwise, that disconnect continues."

Along with her role at IMAC, which she has helped develop since its inception in 1996, Turner has worked as a GP in Auckland and Wellington, and became health spokesperson for the independent charity, Child Poverty Action Group.

Turner was reluctant to take any credit for her personal nomination for this award, saying it should instead be an acknowledgement of the hard work of lifting coverage rates by her peers in public health, clinics and hospitals.

Will "Egg Boy" Connolly

Will Connolly pictured at his family's
Will Connolly pictured at his family's "beach box" at Brighton Beach in Melbourne, Australia. Photo / Supplied

Will Connolly's mother didn't believe him when he called her and said he was out egging a politician.

But after the Australian teenager hung up, he slung a bag of eggs over the handlebars of his bike and cycled to see controversial politician Fraser Anning after he blamed the Christchurch attacks on immigration.

The teen's initial satisfaction of crushing the egg against Anning's skull was quickly cut short when the politician retaliated and repeatedly slapped the boy.

Dubbed "Egg Boy", Connolly suddenly became "the hero we all need" and two GoFundMe pages sprung up to raise money for his legal fees. Almost $100,000 was donated.

But Connolly said the money was never his to keep and donated it all to the victims of the attacks.

"I'm a teenager, what am I going to do with all that money?"

Connolly told the Herald while he knows egging someone isn't the right thing, in the context he would do it again.

"If I had a time machine that took me back to that day, I would do it."

"It was just the fact that people literally died and he's just spreading more hate when we should be helping people. When someone's sad, you've go to help them. You can't shit on them."

Being nominated for the Herald's Our Heroes 2019 awards really touched Connolly, who said: "I can't actually believe it."

"I seriously almost teared up."

Connolly will be in Christchurch in March for the memorial of the attacks.