Queenstown pair NZer of the year nominees

New Zealander of the year finalist Dr Jim Salinger.
New Zealander of the year finalist Dr Jim Salinger.
A Queenstown pair have both been named as finalists in the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards.

Dr Jim Salinger is a finalist in the New Zealander of the year category and Neill Simpson is a finalist in the senior New Zealander of the year category.

The pair are up against just two other finalists in each of their categories.

Apart from being both from Queenstown, the two finalists are connected in other ways.

Dr Salinger’s partner, Kirsty Sharpe, is a cousin of Mr Simpson’s wife, Barb Simpson, and the pair even live close by in Kelvin Heights.

Mr Simpson said he never expected to be nominated, let alone become a finalist.

"I'm just amazed to even be nominated in the first place and then becoming a finalist — I’m still coming to grips with that."

He said his family was proud, but he did not like to "blow [his] trumpet" and was doubtful he could take home the win.

"I can’t imagine that happening, with the calibre of the other two finalists.

"But I supposed it would mean a lot to be recognised in that way."

Senior New Zealander of the year finalist Neill Simpson.
Senior New Zealander of the year finalist Neill Simpson.
The 90-year-old is one of New Zealand’s leading botanists and ecologists.

Mr Simpson and his wife founded the Whakatipu Islands Reforestation Trust more than 15 years ago.

He spent the past 10 years overseeing the planting of more than 10,000 native trees a year with the trust.

The work of Mr Simpson saw Pigeon and Pig Islands, which had been seriously damaged by fires, turned into havens for native birds.

"I owe it to a lot of people, in particular my wife.

"She keeps me going and prods me along and has supported me right through."

Dr Salinger could not be reached yesterday, but when he made the semifinals he said he fell over on hearing the news.

He is an international climate scientist and was one of the first in the world to speak up about climate change 48 years ago.

In 2007, Dr Salinger was the lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change when it won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr Salinger and Mr Simpson would be sharing a table at the finalist dinner in Auckland with their families.