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  • Writer's picturenikgregg

Students taking on kaitiakitanga role for EnviroChallenge

Awareness became the theme of the day at EnviroChallenge 2019. Students from across the Bay of Plenty region gathered at host school Mount Maunganui College to share their own schools environmental journey, inspire each other and to compete for three awards.

In its eleventh year, the secondary school programme continues to attract students with an environmental passion and commitment to making a difference in their community.

For the past few years the EnviroChallenge tag line has been ‘be the change where you are’ and the focus to inspire environmental leadership. If the last two years event are anything to go by, there is a very real and powerful movement of student change and leadership right under our noses.

Papamoa College during their presentation.

This year six schools participated (Mount Maunganui College, Tauranga Girls College, Tauranga Boys College, Katikati College, Papamoa College and John Paul College) in the day-long event and two more attended as observers (Trident High School and Western Heights High School).

Five challenges are set including; a presentation about their own schools sustainability projects, a debate on a topical issue, the development of an app, a collaborative problem solving exercise and a creative art challenge.

Projects the schools presented on included;

  • The establishment of Rongoā gardens (traditional herbal Maori medicine gardens)

  • Zero waste goals

  • Community partnerships for local food security

  • Biodversity and pest eradication

  • Green buildings

  • Reducing carbon emissions

Every student group demonstrated a well-researched understanding of the issues they faced and the integrated approach they were taking including forming partnerships with local council and community groups. Katikati College is part of the Predator Free programme for pest control, John Paul College has partnered with Kai Rotorua to build a local food hub, Papamoa College raised money for Forest & Bird by selling tote bags and Tauranga Girls College are part of the Trees4Survival programme, as just a few examples.

The debate and app challenge were focused on transport, given transport contributes to over 30 percent of the regions emissions, it’s a prominent topic.

The debate required students to represent a high profile individual or group and their position on the question of ‘should public transport be free for all to use’. The students presented well researched and convincing arguments with logical thought progression for their closing arguments.

Judges concentrating intensely on the debaters.

One particularly memorable comment was along the lines of ‘we need good roads for our buses to travel on’, highlighting the concern around the congestion and poor roading design our region suffers from. Glen Crowther, Bay of Plenty Regional Manager for Sustainable Business Network was a guest judge for the day, given his extensive understanding of transport in the Bay of Plenty.

The EnviroChallenge programme started in the Western Bay of Plenty and has been sponsored by the Western Bay of Plenty District council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council for a number of years. Sustainability Options has been running and sponsoring the programme since 2016.

Programme manager Jo Wills says ‘There has been a considerable jump in the student’s understanding of the issues and the kaitiakitanga they show. We’ve seen them go from focusing on the symptoms through to addressing the real causes. They continue to impress us with their awareness and willingness to take considered action and they are not holding back.” This year Toi Ohomai was warmly welcomed as new sponsor, providing a cash prize to the winner of the EnviroChallenge Award. The schools involved aren’t ‘in it for the money’, but the contribution made by Toi Ohomai for the EnviroChallenge Award, and by Sustainability Options for the Rising Star Award provide the winning schools putea which can be directed towards their sustainability initiatives.

The students participating in EnviroChallenge are outstanding. Most of the work undertaken on their sustainability projects is during their lunch break. Some of the initiatives are incorporated into class projects but more often than not, the students give up their free time because they understand what it means to be the change where they are.

Winners of the three awards were;

Western Bay of Plenty Award – Mount Maunganui College Rising Star Award – Katikati College EnviroChallenge Award – Tauranga Girls College

Mount Maunganui College with the Western Bay of Plenty Award

Katikati College winners of the Rising Star award

Tauranga Girls College winners of the EnviroChallenge Award

We congratulate all students and schools for their mahi. The calibre on the day was high and the judges felt the pressure. Michelle Elborn, CEO of Bay Conservation Alliance and Lisa Denmead, Academic Staff Member from Toi Ohomai carried out the difficult task of identifying the winners. Lisa said, “…picking a winner was not an easy task because they were all amazing!" See more from Toi Ohomai about EnviroChallenge at

These students can often feel like a lone voice in their schools and communities, which is why raising awareness of sustainability issues and opportunities came through consistently as work they are doing. They reinforced it’s not just the wider student body that needs to take responsibility and action, it’s all of us.

John Paul College busy creating a visual representation of their community gardens.

Tauranga Boys College participating in their first EnviroChallenge.

Western Heights College attended in an observing capacity but completely rocked it!

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