Te Kura Brown, a Year 13 student from Ararua College in Aitutaki and Susan Williams, Year 13 from Tereora College in Rarotonga will be joined by 60 other high school students from around New Zealand.
The week long forum will be held in Auckland from April 18 to 24. The focus of this year’s forum is oceans; with an emphasis on marine pollution, ocean biodiversity, marine-protected areas and ocean health.
Teuru Passfield, a member of the Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) Youth Taskforce, has been a key driver in making this opportunity possible for our students.
Passfield and the programme manager for environment at the Sir Peter Blake Trust were colleagues at university and that network created the initial discussions about the programme and our participation.
The Ministry of Education asked schools to nominate students who had demonstrated an interest in and commitment to environmental issues as well as demonstrating leadership skills in their school or community for consideration.
Over the week the students will have the opportunity to be involved in range of activities, including:
Learning about marine conservation at Goat Island the Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland; developing leadership and teamwork skills for two days with the Royal New Zealand Navy as well as taking part in a micro plastics lab looking at facewash and its effects on the environment.
They will also be involved in a media workshop with leading media and science communicators present.
There will also be the opportunity for site visits with a visit to Orakei Marae to learn about kaitiakitanga, including iwi sustainability initiatives and guardianship of oceans and Rotoroa Island to learn about biodiversity, habitat and marine animals.
During the week the students will also hear from Sir Peter Blake Trust alumni, New Zealand Ministry for the Environment staff, local and national politicians, subject experts, scientists and community leaders.
Brown says she is both excited and a little bit nervous about attending the YELF this month.
“I am looking forward to meeting environmental leaders and the other students from around NZ. I am also looking forward to exploring the marine reserves, learning from environmental experts and completing the various activities that are planned for us.
“I would like to say meitaki atupaka to the Ministry of Education and TIS for selecting me to represent Aitutaki and the Cook Islands.
“On my return I will be sharing my new knowledge and skills with my fellow students and community”. Susan added: “It will be an opportunity to share our Cook Islands experience on Climate Change and the environmental challenges that we as a small country face and what our government has put in place to address and recognise the importance of our environment to our people and economy.”
With a background in science education, Gail Townsend, the Secretary of Education is delighted for the students selected.
“They will have the opportunity to make realistic and relevant connections between science, the environment and our shared responsibility as well as career path opportunities in the Sciences. It will be a wonderful experience for them and I am sure they will represent the Cook Islands extremely well.”
Prime minister Henry Puna as Education minister responded to the news by saying, “Such opportunities for our young people demonstrate to them their ability to actively contribute at the regional and global level – something they can continue to do for the Cook Islands as they carry on their study and move into their chosen careers.
“Our environment is such an important area for our youth to become engaged in and I thank all concerned in making this possible.”
TIS and the ministry wish both students all the best for a successful forum.