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Wellingtonian of the Year supreme award shared for first time in 31 years

Not in three decades of the Wellingtonian of the Year awards has the supreme winner been literally too close to call.

But that was the case on Thursday night, when the 31st edition of the annual awards saw the major prize shared between climate change activist Sophie Handford and Muslim community leader Tahir Nawaz.

Sophie Handford won the the youth category, as well as jointly winning the Wellingtonian of the Year supreme award. Photo: Ross Giblin/Stuff

Handford, who also took out the youth category, coordinated the nationwide School Strike for Climate, resulting in tens of thousands of students taking to the streets to lobby the Government to change its stance on climate change.

The protest was fuelled by a range of demands including declaring a climate emergency, aiming to be carbon neutral by 2040, stopping exploration and extraction of fossil fuels, and devising a plan to accept climate change “survivors”.

“We might not make a huge difference the first time around, but if we keep it up and we show that we’re determined to fight for the change, we think we can get there,” Handford said.

International Muslim Association of New Zealand president Nawaz, who also won the community service category, has strived to bring Kiwis of all backgrounds closer together following the terror attacks at two Christchurch mosques in March.

International Muslim Association of New Zealand president Tahir Nawaz is joint winner of the 2019 Wellingtonian of the Year supreme award. (File photo)

His message has been for people to put aside their differences and unite against racism and discrimination.

Nawaz dedicated this year’s annual Kilbirnie Mosque open day to thanking the wider community for their support and friendship following the attacks.

“The purpose is so people can come together, have some refreshments, and ask questions,” he said at the time.

He said he was overwhelmed by the respect shown by the community following the attacks.

“We are more close and our bonds more strong. The whole nation is supporting us and helping us.”

The awards are run by The Dominion Post, having been initiated by The Evening Post in 1989.

Dominion Post editor Eric Janssen said the winners and their response were a clear reflection of events that dominated New Zealand headlines in 2019.

“In such a confronting year for New Zealanders, there’s been a crying need for our winners, their strength and convictions, and their voices.

“Without Sophie and Tahir’s leadership, respectively, we might fear even more for our future, and struggle even more to find peace after unprecedented pain.”

Wellingtonian of the Year winners

Supreme award

Sophie Handford and Tahir Nawaz

Category winners 

Arts: Jemaine Clement

Business: Jamie Selkirk

Community service: Tahir Nawaz

Education: Dave Appleyard

Environment: Erik Zydervelt and Finn Lawrence

Public service: Helene Quilter

Science and technology: Brett Delahunt

Sport: Katrina Rore

Youth: Sophie Handford

World-class Welly award

Don Tricker

Philanthropy Showcase

Ian Paterson

Kevin and Julia O’Connor

​Eddie Writes


Damian George/Stuff