The Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) has always been strong in the Far North, but never stronger than in 2018, two schools collecting three of the nine national awards, against competition from 900 other student companies in 21 regions around the country.
Hokianga Sustainable Fertiliser, led by Allen Karena (Te Kura Taumata o Panguru — Panguru Area School), won the HSBC Award for Environmental Sustainability and the Ministry for Primary Industries GrowingNZ Sustainability Award: Food and Fibre.
The business turned an environmental problem into an asset by converting an invasive sea squirt, which was smothering the mussel beds at Mitimiti, into fertiliser. Allen, 17, had earlier organised a community action day to remove half a tonne of the pest from the beds.
The other big winner was 17-year-old Alex Edwards, from Kerikeri High School, who took home the He Kai Kei Aku Ringa Award for Rangatahi Business.
Alex, who trades as AE Productions, published a bilingual children's book, Trevor the Trevally in a Plastic Ocean, or Arewa te Araara i te Moana Parahitiki, to teach youngsters about about the dangers plastic waste poses to sea life.
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.
Northland YES co-ordinator Gary 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.
The finalists were joined at the awards presentation in Wellington by parents, teachers, representatives of Top Energy (the scheme's Northland sponsor) and Papa Taiao (a company teaching ecological restoration at Panguru Area School).
Mr Larkan had many people to thank, including Russell Shaw and Belinda Peddie (Top Energy), Mina Pomare-Peita and Hurimae Latimer (Te Kura Taumata o Panguru), Aaron McCloy and Marty Taylor (Papa Taiao Earthcare), Craig and Jenni Edwards, Megan Prendergast (Kerikeri High School), Kellie Martin, Janet Lang (Whangārei Girls' High School), and YES HQ Northlanders Justice Heteraka (ex-Whangārei Girls' High School) and Shay Wright (ex- Kaitaia College).
Andrea Panther, Young Enterprise roaming teacher for Northland, was also at the function in Wellington.