On a high: Wallace Wai How Yap stands with wife Krs Ty Yap in front of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the capital's 452m-high landmark
By spreading the word among friends, he accumulated 3,405 of the 29,734 total votes – 816 ahead of second-placed Skye Chadwick of Nova Scotia on 2,589.
Wallace says he was spurred on by the prospect of taking his wife back to New Zealand to recuperate after treatment for cancer.
“On a visit to New Zealand last year for a honeymoon, my wife instantly fell in love with the landscape, culture and how laidback the people were, and we have been longing to visit again ever since.
“Early this year my wife was diagnosed with cancer, and she has just completed her chemotherapy treatment. Right now a stress-free environment is the best medicine for her, and a few days in Hutt City would be ideal.”
The prize is a single return airfare from anywhere in the world, so Wallace will happily dip into his own pocket to bring along his wife, Krs Ty Yap.
At the time of posting his photo on the council’s facebook page, he added: “I want to win this contest for her – as a gift for her high optimism throughout her courageous battle with cancer.”
When he received word of the win, he said: “Krs and I were really happy and jumped for joy. Revisiting New Zealand will bring back so many nostalgic memories of my time studying in Wellington and of our honeymoon.
My wife has fallen in love with New Zealand and we talked constantly about returning. It will also be great to see my cousins in Wellington as we rarely get to see each other.”
Wallace, who works for a Swiss insurance company in Kuala Lumpur, studied information systems and finance at Victoria University from 2001-02. His cousin lives in the Hutt.
With his win confirmed, Wallace was ready to reveal the secret of his high vote count: “My wife was enthusiastically getting people to vote for my photo despite being on several chemo treatments during the contest. I was really proud of her strength and determination. I guess her enthusiasm rubbed off on many people and we gained a lot of support from there. Our parents and relatives were our biggest ‘campaigners’, diligently getting every single soul on their facebook friends list to vote daily.
And our circle of friends was super supportive too.”
Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace said the competition had succeeded in raising the city’s profile and increasing the sense of civic pride among residents.
“We wanted to encourage people to think of Hutt City as home and take pride in that fact, no matter how they may travel. We have achieved that goal, in no small part because of the support from our co-sponsor, the Hutt News.
“The competition builds on the I ♥ Hutt City campaign, which has been running since the start of the year and aims to reinforce our presence regionally over the longer term.”