Northland student businesses have scooped three of the nine top prizes in the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) national finals in Wellington.

The young Northland entrepreneurs, who were competing against 900 student companies from 21 regions around the country, took home two environmental sustainability awards and the prize for best rangatahi (youth) business.

Northland has long punched above its weight in the nationwide programme, which teaches business skills by getting high school students to create a new product or service and set up a real-life business, but this year's results are believed to be the region's best ever.

Hokianga Sustainable Fertiliser, led by Allen Karena of Te Kura Taumata o Panguru (Panguru Area School), won the HSBC Award for Environmental Sustainability and the Ministry for Primary Industries GrowingNZ Sustainability Award.

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The business has turned an environmental problem into an asset by converting an invasive sea squirt, which was smothering the famous mussel beds at Mitimiti, into fertiliser.

Allen, 17, had earlier organised a community action day to remove half a tonne of the marine pest from the threatened shellfish beds.

The other big winner was Alex Edwards, 17, of Kerikeri High School, who took home the He Kai Kei Aku Ringa Award for Rangatahi Business.

Sole trader Alex Edwards of Kerikeri High School, pictured with Shay Wright of He Kai Kei Aku Ringa, won the award for best rangatahi business for a bilingual children’s book about plastic pollution. Photo / supplied
Sole trader Alex Edwards of Kerikeri High School, pictured with Shay Wright of He Kai Kei Aku Ringa, won the award for best rangatahi business for a bilingual children’s book about plastic pollution. Photo / supplied

Alex, who trades as AE Productions, published a bilingual children's book called Trevor the Trevally in a Plastic Ocean or Arewa te Araara i te Moana Parahitiki to teach youngsters about the dangers plastic waste poses to sea life.

Northland YES co-ordinator Gary Larkan said Eco Wave, a Whangārei Girls' High School company which produces a reusable shopping bag key ring, was one of 20 teams in the running for the title of YES National Company of the Year 2018.

''They did a fantastic job and were right up with the best of them, but the judging didn't go their way,'' Larkan said.

Eco Wave, a Whangārei Girls' High School company producing a reusable shopping bag key ring, made the finals for the YES National Company of the Year 2018. From left, Kellie Martin, Ariana Martin, Deja Tuhoro, Steph Turner and teacher Janet Lang. Photo / supplied
Eco Wave, a Whangārei Girls' High School company producing a reusable shopping bag key ring, made the finals for the YES National Company of the Year 2018. From left, Kellie Martin, Ariana Martin, Deja Tuhoro, Steph Turner and teacher Janet Lang. Photo / supplied

Past graduates of the programme Ezekiel Raui (ex-Taipa Area School) and Brad Rowe (ex-Springbank School) were finalists in the YES Emerging Alumni Awards.

Larkan said winning three out of nine national excellence awards was a fantastic result for Northland, and all students who took part in the scheme in 2018 would reap the benefits for many years to come.

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The finalists were joined at the December 6 awards in Wellington by parents, teachers, and representatives of Top Energy (the scheme's Northland sponsor) and Papa Taiao (a company teaching ecological restoration at Panguru Area School).