Northland is on the brink of unleashing future human rights and political advocates in Kerikeri's Samantha Putt and Whangarei's Tariro Chanyau.

Miss Putt, a 17-year-old public speaking extraordinaire, was equal first in a speech competition in Whangarei, outwitting fellow secondary school students from throughout Northland.

Miss Putt and Miss Chanyau of Whangarei Girls' High School took pole position in the Race Unity Speech Awards' Northland regional competition held on Wednesday evening.

Organisers split the competitors into two groups, with six speakers hosted at the Central Library in Whangarei and seven gave their speeches at the Bahai centre on Mill Rd.

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The topic was "Stand up for race unity - don't be a bystander".

Both winners will represent Northland at the national semifinal in Auckland in April and, if successful, will march to the final and also have an opportunity to take part in the annual Race Unity Conference.

On their return to Northland and the Far North they will be presented with a shield at a school assembly to mark their win, where it is hoped they will deliver their speeches to the whole school.

Miss Putt, a Year 13 student at Kerikeri High School, is relishing the opportunity to address people on issues that are close to her heart.

"I am quite passionate about human rights and interested in politics, and race unity celebrations gives me an opportunity to express them," she said.

A win at a speech competition at her school last year triggered her passion on the twin issues and prompted her to enter this year's Race Unity Speech Awards.

The race unity speech Competition was initiated by the New Zealand Baha'i community 16 years ago and is supported by police, Human Rights Commission, the Office of Ethnic Communities, Hedi Moani Charitable Trust, NZ Federation of Multicultural Councils, and Speech New Zealand.

Superintendent Wallace Haumaha, general manager of Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services for the NZ Police, said the awards provided a great opportunity for young people in the country to spread the importance of positive race relations.