Extended time near Taupo turns boys into young leaders.
An elite school plans to send Year 13 students away to camp next year - for the entire year.
St Paul's Collegiate in Hamilton will introduce the new outdoor leadership academy for students aged 17 and 18, housing them in huts at Tihoi camp near Taupo.
The Tihoi Outdoor Leadership Academy has been developed to combine studies with exposure to the great outdoors on the Central Plateau and is also open to boys not already enrolled at St Paul's.
It is compulsory for the school's Year 10 pupils to spend six months at Tihoi now, and the new plan for older students could be well received if the views of a famous old boy are anything to go by.
Former Black Caps cricket captain Daniel Vettori, 33, said the camp was one of the defining experiences of his life. "For me personally, being 14 and thrown into that situation was a pretty exciting experience and I still talk about it with the others who went."
John Lawrenson, now chief executive of The Lawrenson Group, said the students were lucky to be offered an extra stay at Tihoi. He attended the six-month course 20 years ago.
"There were a lot of useless fat kids like me who went down there and came back much more useful individuals."
Lawrenson, 34, has 12 bars and restaurants with about 350 staff and credited his success to the mindset Tihoi gave him.
"You grow up a lot more than just that six-month timeframe. There's an important lesson in knowing you have to get up at 6.30 in the morning to chop wood or else you're having a cold shower."
Headmaster Grant Lander said the year-long programme would be unlike anything else in New Zealand.
"The programme is designed to give Year 13 students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and at the same time achieve their Level 3 NCEA, University Entrance and National Outdoor Recreation qualifications," he said.
"It is a unique programme in an extraordinary outdoor setting."
The Tihoi campus is on 15ha, west of Lake Taupo. Fees for the year are $30,000 - similar to a fulltime boarding fee of $28,850.
During the four school terms, students will develop academic and leadership skills while living in a supervised "flatting environment".
Lawrenson said his only reservation about extending the programme to a year would be the effect it might have on school cricket with players away in Taupo.
"They might get their asses kicked by Hamilton Boys."
An information evening for current Year 12 students from any school is on tomorrow night at St Paul's.