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Speech

The Governor-General's ANZAC of the Year, in association with the RSA

Issue date: 
Friday, 4 April 2014
Speaker: 
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO

As Governor-General it is an honour to host this ceremony, in partnership with the RSA.

The strength of character shown by New Zealanders in the ANZAC Corps and subsequent fields of battle is matched by the extraordinary efforts of individuals in our communities.

Today is an opportunity to give due recognition to people in all walks of life who have put their lives on the line for others, who have faced significant challenges and have made a real difference.

The qualities of comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment are valued by us all and I hope young New Zealanders will be inspired by the courageous actions of the individual who is receiving this Award.

We will also have the opportunity to hear the young winner of the ANZ RSA Cyril Bassett VC speech competition for 2014, Jack Potaka deliver his speech.

Jack will be joining the thousands of New Zealanders at Gallipoli on Anzac Day to mark the landings by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

The man who is represented on the ANZAC of the Year Award, Private Henderson, was a stretcher bearer at Gallipoli.

For many of us, Private Henderson has come to symbolise the spirit of ANZAC – he put his life on the line in order to save the lives of others and in doing so, showed great courage, comradeship, commitment and compassion.

Those qualities are equally admired and valued in everyday life.

In 2010, the RSA established The Anzac of the Year Award to recognise the spirit of ANZAC in New Zealanders today.
I recently announced, in consultation with the RSA, that I would become patron of the Award, which would henceforth be known as the Governor-General’s Anzac of the Year Award.

Now, it is my privilege to announce the recipient of the 2014 Governor-General’s Anzac of the Year Award - Mr Banapa Avatea.

Niels Holm, the Official Secretary, will read the citation.


On 14 February 2014, Mr Banapa Avatea prevented a potentially fatal accident by jumping into and controlling a moving 29-tonne truck after the driver had passed out at the wheel.
While making his daily commute to work on State Highway 1 between Auckland and Hamilton, Mr Avatea noticed that the truck in front of him was veering to the right and hitting road barriers.
Realising that something was very wrong, Mr Avatea accelerated and came up beside the truck to see the driver hunched over the wheel unconscious.
Mr Avatea called 111, turned on his hazard and head lights and drove in the middle of the two southbound lanes in peak-traffic to prevent other cars passing.
As the truck neared Rangiriri, it crashed hard into a barrier and slowed. Mr Avatea got out of his car, and assisted by another motorist, was able to open the door of the truck. The motorist was able to apply his hand to the foot brake while Mr Avatea jumped in, took control and was finally able to bring the truck to a stop.
Using his first aid training, Mr Avatea quickly established that the driver was diabetic and stabilised him before the paramedics arrived. Mr Avatea then continued on his way to work.
The Waikato District road policing authority remarked that Mr Avatea’s courage and quick thinking had prevented a serious tragedy.
While this act alone deserves accolades, Mr Avatea has also demonstrated an ongoing commitment to the Anzac values of courage, comradeship, compassion and commitment in his everyday life. As Principal of Huntly West School and a passionate educator, Mr Avatea strives to instil these values in his students. He confirms that the spirit embodied in the Anzac tradition is truly alive in New Zealand today.

 Ladies and gentlemen, it has been my privilege to present the Anzac of the Year Award to a truly deserving recipient.  Banapa Avatea has demonstrated that the values of the Anzac spirit are universally applicable in our society.  They are the values that were demonstrated by him when he averted what could have been a very tragic accident. 

While the event that brought Mr Avatea to our attention was a ‘one-off’ incident, his actions on that day are underpinned by values that he encourages and displays in his school daily in his role as a School Principal and educator.  I am aware that he shares with the children at his school how the efforts of the ANZAC soldiers helped to shape our nation.

Thank you all for coming today to honour Mr Avatea.
Ladies and gentlemen that concludes the formal part of the ceremony.

Kia ora huihui tatou katoa. Again, greetings to all.

Last updated: 
Friday, 4 April 2014

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