Napier architecture student Hamish Beattie is one of seven young New Zealanders to pick up a $10,000 postgraduate scholarship which were announced in Wellington this week as part of a $184,000 presentation from the Freemasons University Scholarships programme.
Twenty-six of the country's top students benefited, with seven awarded $10,000 and 19 awarded $6000 scholarship packages.
Mr Beattie is working toward a PhD in architecture at Victoria University in Wellington and as past of his thesis had drawn on his interest in how what he called "socially motivated design" could draw attention to certain pressing global issues - the one he had been drawn toward involved improving the quality of life for people who were effectively forced to live in waste picking communities which sprung up and inhabited landfill areas.
"Many marginalised people around the world turn to landfills and scavenging as a source of livelihood."
He said while such communities were often well organised it was not always the case in regions of high migration, cultural fluidity and large numbers of vulnerable children, widows and the disabled.
Throughout his architectural studies he had been interested in sustainable and innovative design ideas, particularly for ageing and low socio-economic populations.
Mr Beattie has received several student architectural awards and his master's thesis was selected for entry into the Royal Institute of British Architects for the best student designs in the Commonwealth and last October presented the research at the Association of Architecture Schools of Australasia conference in Christchurch.
He said his long-term plans were to provide consultancy to organisations dealing with development issues and to eventually gain the capacity to deliver his own projects internationally.
His skills in design and innovation had been reflected in a model he created to "symbolise improvement in the quality of life" for the communities who lived within the landfills.
Mr Beattie has also been heavily involved in surf life saving over the past nine years as a senior lifeguard patrolling Hawke's Bay beaches.