An Eltham woman is among those honoured at the 2020 New Zealander of the Year awards.

Residents of Taranaki celebrated their own "local heroes" at a special awards ceremony.

As part of the 2020 New Zealander of the Year Awards, the 21 Kiwibank local heroes were presented with medals to recognise their achievements.

Suzanne Hardwick Smith from Eltham is the current treasurer and chair of the Taranaki Kiwi Trust which protects wild Western Brown Kiwi in the region. She is Taranaki's most experienced kiwi handler and volunteers up to 30 hours a week for the Trust.

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Deputy Mayor Richard Jordan presented the medals and congratulated recipients.

"Each and every award winner tonight embodies the priceless qualities that hold a community together. It was their charity, selflessness and humble generosity that shone bright as we heard each local hero speak about their achievements in our community.

"It's for that very reason I stand with them all tonight, to acknowledge the hard work they've each put into this community that has truly made Taranaki the place it is today," he said.

Leanne Blakelock from Inglewood has volunteered for the Inglewood Rotary Club for more than two years. Through the club, Leanne provides meals, groceries, clothes and furniture to people struggling in the community.

Leanne is also a trustee for the Taranaki Retreat, treasurer for Volunteering New Plymouth and a board member of Vertical Horizon. She is also a key supporter and volunteer to the Kai Kitchen, Kai and Aroha, Take a Meal and the Inglewood Community Fridge.

Kiwibank chief executive Steve Jurkovich said honouring Kiwis who are making Kiwis better off is aligned with the New Zealand-owned bank's purpose.

"The Local Hero Awards honour some of New Zealand's finest people. They celebrate those Kiwis whose hard mahi and determination has improved the lives of many in their communities."

Piers Duncan from Kaponga is a co-founder of START - an early intervention programme for vulnerable male teenagers. The 20-week programme takes in four boys at a time to encourage positive involvement in the community.

The Kiwibank Local Heroes for Taranaki are:
Piers Duncan (Kaponga)
Gary Topping (Waitara)
Suzanne Hardwick Smith (Eltham)
Anne Smith (New Plymouth)
Ross Smith (New Plymouth)
Alison Rumball (New Plymouth)
Helen Johnson (Waitara)
Colin Kelsen (New Plymouth)
Shirley Kelson (New Plymouth)
Tim Coleman (New Plymouth)
John Evans (New Plymouth)
David Chadfield (New Plymouth)
Evan Davies (New Plymouth)
Sarah Foy (New Plymouth)
Lindsay Thomson (New Plymouth)
Hamuora Kinera (New Plymouth)
Philip Marchant (New Plymouth)
Leanne Blakelock (Inglewood)
Stephanie Murray (New Plymouth)
Celine Filbee (Hāwera)
Noeline McCready (New Plymouth)

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Now in their 11th year, the Kiwibank Local Hero Awards are New Zealand's premier community awards, celebrating and honouring those who have made a positive contribution to their region, town, suburb or community.

Throughout November and December, 326 medals will be presented nationwide with one New Zealand Local Hero of the Year winner announced at the New Zealander of the Year Awards in February 2020.

The 2020 New Zealander of the Year Awards are to be presented in six award categories, with the overall winner of each category to be announced at the New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala on Thursday 20 February 2020.

The categories are:
Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year
University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year (15-30 years)
Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year (70 years and over)
Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year
Trade Me New Zealand Innovator of the Year
Mitre10 New Zealand Community of the Year