New Zealander of the Year: Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles named winner for response to 'one of our greatest challenges'

Siouxsie Wiles.
Siouxsie Wiles. Photo credit: Auckland University/Getty

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles has been named the 2021 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

She was awarded the title by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday night.

Dr Wiles has become a household name in New Zealand since the emergence of COVID-19, and was awarded the title for "responding to one of our greatest challenges by sharing her knowledge with Aotearoa and the world".

Also known for her striking pink hair, Dr Wiles has a keen interest in illustrating science through tweeting, blogging and as a media commentator.

Dr Wiles, a University of Auckland associate professor, has a PhD in microbiology and in November was named the supreme winner of the 2020 Women of Influence award.

Other finalists in the running for the award included Christchurch Muslim community leader Farid Ahmed and domestic violence social entrepreneur Ranjna Patel.

New Zealander of the Year patron and broadcaster Miriama Kamo said Dr Wiles had used her passion to make New Zealand a better place.

"While New Zealand collectively locked down, she stepped up - helping millions globally see past the fear and complexities of the pandemic.  

"Her work provided support, strength and clarity across New Zealand and beyond, representing our country on a world stage and helping to keep us safe.

"Outside of the pandemic, she is a passionate and influential leader in her industry."

Wednesday's ceremony marked the 12th anniversary of the New Zealander of the Year Awards.

Previous winners

  • Jennifer Ward-Lealand Te Atamira (2020)
  • 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)