Chris Nutsford did not hesitate before climbing the collapsed PGC building in Christchurch to look for survivors moments after last February's devastating earthquake.
Mr Nutsford is one of 140 people to receive awards for their heroism, service or kindness at a ceremony in Christchurch on Wednesday - one year on from the 6.3-magnitude quake which killed 185 people.
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The 26-year-old carpenter was working near the four-storey PGC building on Cambridge Terrace when the quake struck.
His first instinct was to help a group of disabled people flee a nearby building before offering his building and rock climbing skills to the firefighters who had arrived at the PGC building.
Mr Nutsford would spend the next five hours searching for people and saving three lives.
He climbed a ladder onto the roof of the building, finding survivors and yelling his findings back to the firefighters.
Near the rear of the building he heard murmurs.
Twisting his body through the narrow spaces around rubble he discovered three women trapped inside a toilet cubicle.
"Then we started to talk and they told me their names and I assured them they would be fine so for the next four and a half hours I spent re-arranging the spaghetti which you call reinforcing," he told NZ Newswire.
"The cubicle that the women were in was the only thing stopping the floors from squashing the girls so I had to cut through those at certain points so to not jeopardise the structural integrity."
After many moments of "joy, sorrow and happiness", he managed to free the women with the help of an engineer.
"It was a big day and everyone did their bit, the real heroes are the people that stayed over in the rain at night... and the people that dealt with the loss, they're the real heroes, I just did what I could with what I had."