13 Feb 2019

New Zealander of the year to be announced tonight

7:10 pm on 13 February 2019

An anti-smoking campaigner, a social entrepreneur feeding thousands of school children and a comedian turned mental health advocate are in the running to become Kiwibank New Zealander of the year.

Finalists for the 2019 New Zealander of the Year

Finalists for the 2019 New Zealander of the Year Photo: RNZ/ Supplied

The 10th annual awards gala is set to kick off in Auckland at 7pm.

Chief Judge Cameron Bennett said all three finalists shared the defining qualities of "empathy, understanding and a passion for effecting real, positive change".

"These three remarkable Kiwis are worthy finalists for the title of Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year in 2019. They are tackling some of the toughest social issues facing New Zealand - issues that touch us all."

Previous winners include Dr Lance O'Sullivan, Dame Anne Salmond, Richie McCaw, and Taika Waititi.

The finalists are:

Marewa Glover: tobacco harm reduction advocate (Auckland)

Dr Glover, who is of Ngā Puhi descent, is an internationally respected public health expert who has devoted 25 years to finding ways to reduce harm caused by smoking, especially among Māori.

Previously a Professor of Public Health at Massey University and Chair of End Smoking NZ, she is director of the Centre of Research Excellence: Indigenous Sovereignty and Smoking and is currently an Associate Investigator on the A Better Start, National Science Challenge.

Lisa King: founder of Eat My Lunch (Auckland)

Ms King's innovative and successful social enterprise Eat My Lunch is positively and sustainably transforming the lives of thousands of Kiwi kids, their families and their communities.

Mike King: mental health advocate (Auckland)

Former comedian Mike King has made it his mission to confront New Zealanders about the tragic and devastating impacts of depression, alcohol and drug abuse in our communities - especially among Māori and young people.

See the list of nominees here for Young New Zealander, Senior New Zealander, New Zealand innovator, local hero, and others.