Mike King named New Zealander of the Year

Mike King has been named Kiwibank's New Zealander of the Year.

The mental health advocate was awarded the title by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a gala dinner on Wednesday.

His fellow finalists included tobacco harm reduction advocate Marewa Glover and Eat My Lunch founder Lisa King.

Chief Judge Cameron Bennett called King a "wonderfully complex and compelling Kiwi".

"His determination to shine a light on the affects and impacts of mental health, particularly among Māori and young people, is as uncompromising as it is confronting.

"His passion and total commitment challenges us to think again about how we address some of the most serious social issues of our time.

"Mike's in your face, brutally honest and hugely funny. He doesn't back down. It's that courage and resolve that makes him so relatable to at-risk rangatahi that others can't reach."

King put his successful comedy career on hold to focus on campaigning for better awareness around mental health in New Zealand, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world.

In 2009 he founded support group The Nutters Club, which morphed into the Key to Life Charitable Trust. The Trust has a long-term ambition to reduce the country's suicide rate to zero, and works alongside mental health professionals, businesses and schools to provide support for those in crisis.

He made headlines in 2018 for his remarks in the wake of broadcaster Greg Boyed's death.

"The problem we have in New Zealand society and all around the world is the problem isn't the person in crisis," he told The AM Show in August.

"It's the rest of us who aren't in crisis, but whose often judgemental attitude is having the biggest effect."

Wednesday's ceremony marked the 10th anniversary of the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards, which this year received 448 nominations or the top award.

Previous New Zealander of the Year winners include pay equity champion Kristine Bartlett and health advocate Dr Lance O'Sullivan.