During the first week of the April holiday break, I attended the BLAKE Inspire environmental leadership programme. To say the experience was worthwhile would be an understatement. The week-long programme was rewarding, inspiring, and exciting. I picked up valuable skills, met passionate young people from around the country, and learned more about the world around me.
The week was held in the Waikato region and the delegates stayed at St Peter's School. Each day was packed with activities, including black-water rafting in the Waitomo Caves, kayaking in Raglan Harbour, and exploring Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari. Most importantly, however, was that informational sessions accompanied each activity. Glow-worms at the Waitomo Caves were complemented with presentations on eco-tourism, while kiwi birds at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari were followed by panels on biodiversity, conservation, and sustainable practices. Due to the mix of hands-on practical work and engaging presentations, we grew through each experience. Additionally, throughout the week, we were exposed to environmentally-orientated careers. For example, at Raglan Harbour, we collected samples and learned about estuarine ecology/health with NIWA scientists. In the process, we learned about the scientists’ backgrounds, from how they got into their field, to what they enjoy most about their job.
Overall, the BLAKE Inspire experience was, quite literally, inspiring. We covered a range of topics, from agriculture to freshwater health, and the organisers ran the week seamlessly. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to attend the programme and, for any student interested in the environment, I would absolutely recommend applying to the BLAKE Inspire programme.
Blake Inspire Media Release:
14 April 2021
Young Manawatu leaders selected for BLAKE environmental programme
"Two local high school students have been selected from hundreds of applications to represent Manawatu at BLAKE Inspire – a week-long environmental leadership programme for young New Zealanders.
- Misipeka Ana, Horowhenua College, Year 13
- Lucas Richardson, Palmerston North Boys' High School, Year 12
In partnership with the Ministry for the Environment, this year BLAKE will run two BLAKE Inspire programmes: the first, running from 19 – 23 April in Waikato, and the second from 11 – 15 October in Auckland.
Misipeka and Lucas will attend the first programme in Waikato.
These two programmes allow up to 70 Year 11-13 students from around Aotearoa to join other like- minded young leaders, who care about New Zealand’s critical environmental issues, for a week of experiential learning.
BLAKE CEO, James Gibson, says BLAKE Inspire helps to unlock their potential and kick-start their journey to tackle environmental issues and help create a more sustainable future.
“Environmental issues are a priority for our rangatahi. They’re very aware that their future will be negatively impacted if people don’t start responding to challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and the decline of our marine health now. Whatever their culture, school or background, BLAKE Inspire brings together these young, like-minded leaders to create new connections and find answers to pressing environmental challenges.
“Throughout the week, BLAKE Inspire students will interact with scientists, conservation experts and New Zealand business leaders who are leading the way with sustainability initiatives, so they can ask all the questions they like and soak up every opportunity presented to them,” says James.
Ministry for the Environment (MfE) Deputy Secretary, Joint Evidence, Data and Insights Group, Natasha Lewis says:
“Our rangatahi are growing up in a changing world where environmental challenges and opportunities are at the forefront of all key choices. Leaders today need to be resilient, innovative and able to respond to a changing world.
Decisions will impact the Aotearoa they will inherit.
“BLAKE Inspire will support 35 young rangatahi on this journey, helping them to deepen their knowledge, promote discussion and debate on critical issues and building their network and connections. Ministry for the Environment is proud to be able to be a part of this programme and excited to see what will come from the 35 rangatahi involved.”
Young people are often called the ‘decision makers of tomorrow’ but our rangatahi must be included in the decision making of today, because more than ever, those
The students will spend the week developing their leadership skills as well as learning about key environmental issues, Mātauranga Māori and sustainability innovation in the Waikato region.
They’ll be exposed to career paths in their field of interest and will be shown real world applications of subjects they learn in the classroom.
Over the week the students will be involved in range of activities. This includes:
- Developing leadership skills through a range of field trips, workshops and exercises throughout the week.
- Addressing a range of topical environmental issues facing New Zealand with a focus on climate change / huringa āhuarangi, biodiversity/rerenga rauropi, marine/moana and freshwater/wai māori.
- Establishing an understanding of Mātauranga Māori by exploring how connections and relationships, living, and non-living are made through Tikanga. This will include an evening workshop highlighting kaitiakitanga and an understanding of mauri through interactive activities and storytelling.
- Learning about climate change and sustainable energy, and how future impacts of climate change will affect the environment. They will also take part in a climate change workshop with a focus on policies.
- Visiting, engaging and learning about the importance of estuaries and landscape management to improve water quality and environmental performance.
- Exploring and learning about an estuary ecosystem and carrying out marine science with leading scientists from NIWA at Raglan Harbour.
- Learning about conservation and experiencing a healthy ecosystem and rich biodiversity during a visit to Sanctuary Mountain.
- Visiting Waitomo Caves where students will learn about eco-tourism and environmental sustainability. In particular, catchment and stream management which impacts the condition of the caves.
- Visiting a national award-winning Waikato dairy farm that is leading the way in innovation and sustainable farming and growing. In addition, hearing from industry experts around the future of farming and food production through an interactive panel discussion.
- Developing their own action plan to implement within their schools and communities on their return to encourage environmental action, conservation and sustainability."