As the filmmaker, actor, and artist was in Los Angeles, the Kiwibank-sponsored award was collected on Taika Waititi's behalf last night by his wife, Chelsea Winstanley, accompanied by Hunt for the Wilderpeople actor Julian Dennison.
The other finalists were educator and researcher Professor Mere Berryman and Major Campbell Roberts, the principal advisor for the Salvation Army’s social policy & parliamentary unit.
Chief judge Cameron Bennett says Waititi is creative, courageous, audacious, subversive and downright funny.
See, failing maths at school occasionally works out! Thank you to the majestical island nation of Aotearoa for this huge honour! 1+1=11 https://t.co/jbjpjvT2jc— Taika Waititi (@TaikaWaititi) February 22, 2017
His outstanding contribution has not only been rewarded with record box-office success at home, but he has showcased who and what New Zealanders are to the world.
His films represent the importance of whānau, of belonging and the challenges facing youth at the margins of society.
Waititi also participated in the 2015 Cure Kids charity single (raising funds for research into cures and treatments for conditions affecting children) and has shown support to charities fighting child poverty.
He is helping raise awareness of the lack of Māori and Pacific Island bone marrow donors, including registering himself as a donor.
Copyright © 2017, UMA Broadcasting Ltd: www.waateanews.com
Read more: Taika Waititi 2107 New Zealander of the Year