A former Huanui College student with a passion for ocean conservation has achieved the top mark in the world in Cambridge marine science.

Pippa Benton, who was Dux of the Whangārei school last year, achieved three A* (Correct A*) grades in Cambridge International A level biology, chemistry and marine science.

The 18-year-old's marine science mark was the top in the world and as a result she earned a High Achievement award from Cambridge International.

"I was shocked," Benton said.


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Benton and three other students from the school were recognised at the Outstanding Cambridge Learner Awards at Eden Park last week.

Year 11 student Jacob Urlich received the High Achievement award for IGCSE Agriculture; Heather Nichols, also year 11, was awarded Top in New Zealand for IGCSE Art and Design; and Jessica Carswell, year 11.

Pippa Benton alongside the Seabin which was installed in Tutukaka Marina last year. Photo / John Stone
Pippa Benton alongside the Seabin which was installed in Tutukaka Marina last year. Photo / John Stone

Benton, who is studying a Bachelor of Science double, majoring in environmental science and biological science at the University of Auckland, is passionate about marine conservation.

In 2018 she played a key role in getting a Seabin for the Tutukaka Marina, last year she took part in environmental programme Blake Inspire, and over Christmas she travelled to Antarctica with her mum who was there for a medical conference.

"Living in Northland, we're so exposed to the natural environment and the ocean. We have so much beautiful coastline and I dive and snorkel and love the beach.

"As I've done more and more research on it - you kind of open your mind to what's out there and I think it's so important to educate people about what's happening because if you're unaware of what it's like, then you don't know or you don't care."

Benton said because she chose Cambridge subjects she was passionate about, studying was not a chore.


"I felt a bit a nerdy. You get on one pathway and you just want to find out as much as you can about it.

"It's good with the marine science because I learned a lot of things through the Seabin and my experience with the ocean so it was cool I could relate it to my real life experiences," she said.

Her advice to other students doing Cambridge was to choose subjects they are passionate about, bug the teachers, and make the most of it.

"And work hard," she said.

Springbank College student Henri Mueller also achieved a High Achievement Award in IGCSE Foreign Language German in the June 2019 Cambridge International Exam series.