Paraparaumu College student Caleb Lopez-Sanchez was one of 56 students who took part in the Sir Peter Blake Trust Youth EnviroLeaders Forum, held in the Waikato, in the first week of the school holidays.

The students gathered to learn about environmental issues facing New Zealand including climate change, marine and freshwater health and biodiversity decline.

The aim was to "kick-start environmental passion, leadership and action in young New Zealanders", Sir Peter Blake Trust chief executive James Gibson said.

It was an action-packed and interesting time for the environmentally focused 16-year-old Caleb.

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Caleb Lopez-Sanchez. Photo / David Haxton
Caleb Lopez-Sanchez. Photo / David Haxton

They kayaked in the Raglan harbour and learnt about sedimentation, learnt how Genesis Energy was incorporating sustainable energy into their footprint, how Tatua Dairy Co was reducing their carbon footprint, and found out what Hamilton District Council was up to.

A day was spent sorting food with Go-Eco, which gets food from supermarkets and distributes it to the community.

"A lot of bread, a lot of fruit and vegetables, and it was all free from supermarkets.

"Nobody expected that much food to be thrown out by a supermarket so it was good it was saved by people."

They visited Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park where trees were being planted with a lot of care and precision.

"It wasn't as easy as planting trees into a park but more a process that involved science and planting at specific times," Caleb said.

They learnt about eco tourism when they went black water rafting with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co and checked out the Waitomo Caves.

"The Waitomo Caves are monitored 24/7 measuring CO2 levels, because if they get too high or too low it can affect the stalactites.

"One finger is like 10,000 years or something."

The group also went to Turangawaewae Marae for a day to learn about key Māori aspects and their role in the environment.

The New Zealand Royal Navy visit them for a day to do some building of leadership/teamwork skills.

The students also created "smart plans" for their community.

"I'm hoping to reduce our school's carbon footprint by reducing our energy consumption."

Caleb said the forum was as "amazing" and "a once in a lifetime opportunity".