Jennifer Ward-Lealand Te Atamira named New Zealander of the Year

Jennifer Ward-Lealand Te Atamira has been named Kiwibank's New Zealander of the Year.

The actress was awarded the title by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday night.

Other finalists in the running for the award included Peter Beck - the chief executive of RocketLab, and Professor Jane Harding from Auckland University's Liggins Institute.

New Zealander of the Year patron and former Prime Minister Jim Bolger said Ward-Lealand was an "outstanding choice" for the award.

"Her devotion to the performing arts sector has profoundly shaped the industry to better look after its people and represent New Zealand more authentically.

"But her positive influence for change extends far beyond performing arts. Her lifetime of volunteering and advocacy for Te Reo Māori me ngā Tikanga has helped revitalise the language in New Zealand and has created opportunities for the expression of Māori identity and culture.

"Jennifer exemplifies what it means to be a New Zealander."

Ward-Lealand has an acting career spanning 40 years - gracing the international stage with her work. She's also a fluent Te Reo Māori speaker - one of her many talents.

"I'm definitely a champion for te reo and I'll do that until I die," she told The AM Show in 2018.

"It's beautiful, it's unique."  

Thursday's ceremony marked the 11th anniversary of the New Zealander of the Year Awards, which this year received nearly 1000 nominations for the main award.

Previous winners 

  • Mike King (2019)
  • Kristine Bartlett (2018)
  • Taika Waititi (2017)
  • Richie McCaw (2016)
  • Sir Stephen Tindall (2015)
  • Dr Lance O’Sullivan (2014)
  • Dame Anne Salmond (2013)
  • Sir Richard Taylor (2012)
  • Sir Paul Callaghan (2011)
  • Sir Ray Avery (2010)