Teens' sights on Kermadec Islands

Kate, 17, and Jack, 16, have been selected for next month's Sir Peter Blake Youth EnviroLeaders' Forum in Auckland, from which 30 students will be chosen to make the 11-day environmental expedition to the Kermadecs aboard HMNZS Canterbury in August.

There were more than 220 applications nationwide for the 50 places at the Auckland forum from April 15-19.

Ironically, after joining the others in the Forum 50, Kate and Jack will travel back to Whangarei with them to visit the Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve at Reotahi and the Poor Knights Islands. Those marine wonderlands are almost as familiar to the two young environmentalists as their own back yards.

Jack is in Year 12 at Whangarei Boys' High School and has a long-standing passion for the both the land and marine environment. He has participated in restoration planting days, kiwi call counts, possum and rat control, the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme, has assisted Dr Ray Pierce with field work studying Pycroft petrels on Lady Alice Island, and was a recipient of the Sir Peter Blake Environmental Leader Award in 2010.

"I'm proud of our environment and it's a great opportunity to show others what we have here and how much we value it," he said.

"My whole family and a lot of other people who live at the [Whangarei] Heads have played a big role in making sure this place remains special."

Kate, in Year 13 at Whangarei Girls' High School, is a prefect and plays an active role in school activities. She is captain of the Environmental Committee and a member of the Cultural Council. Kate is the junior club captain at the Whangarei Heads Surf Lifesaving Club, through which she has been involved with dune protection, coastal erosion projects and raising awareness about the need to protect the marine environment.

The first Young Blake Expedition was announced in December, on the 10th anniversary of Sir Peter Blake's death, and Sir Peter Blake Trust chief executive Shelley Campbell said the project would honour two things he was passionate about.

"Sir Peter dedicated the latter part of his life to increasing the understanding of our fragile marine environment, and he was a huge advocate of providing a chance for young people to reach their potential through challenging adventures," Ms Campbell said.

Those who had been chosen for consideration for the 30 places were outstanding examples of young Kiwis who were passionate about the world around them, she said.

"To have made the Forum 50 is a fantastic achievement, which all the chosen attendees should be proud of. We are looking forward to them showing us why they should be on the voyage to the Kermadecs."

The 30 students will be accompanied by a crew of subject experts, scientists, artists, educators, communicators and leaders. The Kermadecs are 800km-1000km northeast of New Zealand, and 13 volcanic islands are a nature reserve managed by the Department of Conservation. Four DoC staff and up to five volunteers are based on Raoul, the largest island. The 745,000ha of ocean surrounding the Kermadecs are protected as New Zealand's largest marine reserve.