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Bob Francis wins Senior New Zealander of the Year 2024

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on March 28, 2024

Seven-term Mayor of Masterton, Bob Francis CNZM QSO MBE JP, has been named the 2024 Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year Te Mātāpuputu o te Tau.

Affectionately dubbed ‘Mr Wairarapa’, Bob has served his community in multiple areas, including health services, commercial development, the arts, aviation, homelessness, conservation and sports.

Bob’s award signifies the sixth time Ryman Healthcare has supported this category of the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards, which provides a fantastic opportunity to celebrate Kiwi seniors who continue to make positive contributions towards the future of Aotearoa.


As Masterton’s longest-serving mayor, Bob displayed exemplary leadership throughout some incredibly challenging times, but it was his commitment and tireless support for such a broad range of community-focused areas of life that made his nomination particularly stand out.

Bob was involved in establishing medical facilities when he was chair of Masterton Medical and has had roles on health boards; he chaired the Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre and led water resource initiatives; and he has had leadership roles in the arts, aviation, and homeless initiatives.

To this day, he actively promotes regional commercial opportunities as a co-founder of the Wairarapa Development Group and, as a former top-ranked international rugby referee, he remains deeply connected to sports, holding life memberships in rugby associations.

Bob said it was ‘amazing’ to receive the award and acknowledged his fellow finalists plus Ryman Healthcare and Kiwibank for their parts in creating a wonderful event.

“I didn’t come here tonight with any great expectations, but I know for my family and my friends and my community they’ll be delighted with this result and it is great for my district and region.”

He said: “All my work in my community has been based around making sure we all work together and there’s no divisions, and those that aren’t so fortunate, we support them and help them.”

Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year 2024-31 (large)Congratulating Bob, Ryman Healthcare’s New Zealand CEO, Cheyne Chalmers said it was an honour to celebrate those who challenge stereotypes of ageing and continue to inspire us all to keep moving forward, regardless of our age.

“At Ryman Healthcare, I’m constantly reminded that age is not a barrier to potential,” she said.

“With age comes more knowledge, more experience and more wisdom – and more opportunity to inspire those around you.

“Bob is proof that you can motivate and influence while still being a curious and active learner; you can be a supporter or a mentor, as well as a challenger or a disrupter.

“I am thrilled that Bob has been recognised with this award – he is an incredible community leader who can inspire us all to get involved.”

Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year 2024-24 (large)The other finalists in the Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year Te Mātāpuputu o te Tau were Mani Mitchell MNZM, who has dedicated their life to advocating for intersex and rainbow communities, and Neill Simpson, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s foremost botanists and ecologists.

Ryman is the official partner of the Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens, so it was exciting to see Black Ferns player Sarah Hirini make a surprise appearance. She took to the stage to announce her former head coach Sir Wayne Smith as winner of the new Aotearoa Legacy Award.

The most prestigious award, the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Te Pou Whakarae o Aotearoa, went to international climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger.

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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