Walking down a dark pathway on a gloomy winter's night, lights shine out of the Paraparaumu Scout Group's den in the Kaitawa Reserve.

On the balcony a small group huddle around a barbecue cooking sausages.

Inside is a hive of activity as Scouts and adults arrange tables for a wide-ranging spread of food.

An open fire keeps the chilly night air at bay.

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Tonight is special as one of the Scouts is set to receive an important and hard-earned ward.

After everyone has had some food, the Scouts assemble in a horseshoe shape with adults standing behind.

In front are a variety of leaders including Scouts New Zealand chief executive Joshua Tabor.

Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan is also there after accepting an invitation to attend.

And then the main moment of the night, which was on Wednesday, took place.

Hamish Lester, 14, stepped forward to accept his Chief Scout's Award.

The award is the highest honour a Scout can achieve.

For about four and a half years Hamish, who used to belong to the Waikanae Scout Group too, has been working towards this moment.

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He accepted the badge and a certificate before thanking everyone who has helped him.

The award is not to be underestimated, as Tabor pointed out.

"Only 2 per cent of Scouts in New Zealand go on to get a Chief Scout's Award.

"So to say that this is a remarkable accomplishment is an understatement by every measure of the word.

"It requires perseverance, tenacity and a degree of courage.

"So the people who have got this award have worked hard, worked diligently and they've stretched themselves.

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"I have attended a lot of these ceremonies but I can think of very few individuals whose effort and perseverance has gone as far as Hamish's has to receive this award.

"I first met Hamish in 2015 when we were preparing to go to Jamboree and I have to say this has been the making of you so congratulations and well done."

And among other awards presented was a bronze tiki to Hamish's mother Emily Lester for her dedication to committee work over many years.

Emily Lester with her Bronze Tiki award. Photo / David Haxton
Emily Lester with her Bronze Tiki award. Photo / David Haxton

After the ceremony, Tabor had a chat with Kāpiti News.

The movement in New Zealand has resumed community based Scouting after the tight Covid-19 restrictions.

During lockdown and beyond the movement offered 15 online modules which proved popular and welcomed 1300 new families who used it free of charge as well the thousands of young members.

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"It was a huge transition for us.

"Feedback for the world organisation was that it was one of the top three transitions internationally [the others being United Kingdom and Canada] in response to Covid-19.

"We were focusing and encouraging groups to maintain community, connection and continuity.

"And then you get back in a hall like this and you see families and a thriving group and you see that's why we were putting a lot of effort in maintaining online Scouting."

The movement in New Zealand was in a "remarkable place" especially as it had traded growth for financial stability pre-Covid.

"If we hadn't done we would not have been in a place to weather Covid.

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"Our goal now is to start regrowing our membership and get us back up.

"I'm happy to say that we're larger coming out of Covid than we were going in.

"We were about 12,000 young people going into Covid and we came out of Covid about 12,700. And we've got the 1300 families that we're trying to bring into the fold.

"That's been a good news story for us."

Tabor said the movement offered young people a lot.

"What we do for young people is leadership and resilience.

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"There is a whole bunch of data which suggests time in Scouting builds a more resilient young person over a long period of time.

"It's fun, we give them a pathway to achievement and we're updating our curriculum so that it's more relevant than ever.

"And we teach them some practical life skills."

www.scouts.nz