Forum selection for Nayland environmentalist

Year 13 student and passionate environmentalist Matthew Edmonds was recently selected to attend Blake Inspire. He shares his experiences of this with us here.

In the April school holidays, I was one of 56 students from around New Zealand who attended Blake Inspire (previously called the Sir Peter Blake Youth Enviro Leaders Forum) in Hamilton.

This prestigious, fully funded, week-long event is run by the Blake Foundation (in honour of Sir Peter Blake) and the Ministry of the Environment.

To be considered for selection you need to have reasonable school marks, a passion for the environment and be capable of leading change in your local community or school.

I’d previously won a top award at the Nelson Science Fair with my work on monitoring sedimentation in rivers after Ex-Cyclone Gita. I also volunteer on a wetland restoration project in Marahau and am the leader of Nayland’s environment group, N.E.S.T.

It really was an amazing week where we got to work with environmental leaders and scientists, as well as meet other like- minded students from all around NZ.

It was a very full-on week too – beginning the first morning with a boot camp with the NZ Navy. It got easier after that with a day out on the Raglan harbour, learning about the health of the estuary with NIWA scientists. Earlier that day I got to explore and appreciate the stunning scenery by kayak.

We also toured the Genesis Huntly Power Station and learned about how they can generate power with both coal and gas. Our group met the Mayor of Hamilton City and we challenged him on his environmental policies. That evening we were all welcomed onto Turangawaewae marae for dinner.

Throughout the week, we also visited businesses, farms and restoration projects to understand the latest environmental initiatives that are happening all around Waikato.

On the second to last day, we got to go Blackwater rafting through Waitomo Caves. Simply said, you travel through the cave in an inner tube. But it is completely dark except for your torch light. There are sections where you need to jump off rocks into the next part of the river, a bit disconcerting in the dark.

As we were drifting down the river we all turned our torches off and admired the beauty of the glow-worms. We also got a guided tour through the cave networks. It fascinated me to learn how well they monitor and control the temperature, light and carbon dioxide levels within the cave to keep the glow-worms in optimal health – which of course is necessary for sustainable tourism.

I felt honoured to have been selected for Blake Inspire (YELF) and proud to be able to represent Nelson and Nayland College at such an event. The great part of this programme was spending this week with other delegates, staff and guest speakers who are so passionate and knowledgeable about science and the environment.

Many delegates still keep in touch and bounce ideas off each other for their next projects. Blake Inspire has opened up future career prospects for me, as I hope to continue down this line of study at university.

By student Matthew Edmonds