He led an army in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, and Sam Johnson admits there were times he felt like he was at war with the authorities.And the Christchurch Mayor's reaction to the lauding of the hero who couldn't be stopped by his bureaucrats?
The 22-year-old Canterbury University student mobilised thousands into a Student Volunteer Army to clean up tonnes of liquefaction - the silt and sludge produced when an earthquake hits loosely packed, water-logged soil - swamping neighbourhoods after the disastrous jolts.
His leadership has made him one of the finalists for the Herald's New Zealander of the Year award.
But he says there were times along the way when he was tempted to throw in the towel.
In the early stages, Mr Johnson says, Civil Defence tried to either shut down or take over the operation because of the risks of students going into a disaster zone.
Some senior city council staff and Army personnel were also "particularly 'anti' it". Mr Johnson was told he could be held personally liable if something bad happened to any of the volunteers.
Christchurch mayor Bob Parker says he could not think of anyone more deserving of recognition. Mr Johnson's rallying of students to support quake victims was a "genius stroke". "He inspired a whole city, and actually a whole nation. He delivered to those most in need in our city. He was one of the great heroes of the Christchurch earthquakes."Would be even better if he found those who tried to stand in Johnson's way, and fires them all. I have a hard time imagining that folks of that type are any kind of help in rebuilding town. HT: @KeithNg