The organisers of the New Zealander of the Year award say they are going to honour Helen Kelly at their gala early next year.
The 52-year-old died of lung cancer a fortnight ago and her memorial in Wellington yesterday drew more than 1000 mourners.
Ms Kelly had received the most nominations for the 2017 award.
However, the award's national manager Glyn Taylor said Ms Kelly was ineligible because it cannot be given posthumously.
"We want to recognise her at the gala, and we'll do that in a very appropriate way," he said.
"We want to make sure due reverence is made to her contribution."
Mr Taylor said Ms Kelly would still receive her Local Hero Medal because the judging for that finished before she died.
Ms Kelly was the president of the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) from 2007 until 2015.
Before her death she also campaigned for cannabis reform, which she was using to ease her pain as the cancer took a toll on her body.