2019 New Zealand Youth Awards Recipients Announced

The recipients of the 2019 New Zealand Youth Awards were announced by Minister for Youth Peeni Henare at a celebration event which took place on 24 June at Parliament.

Aotearoa is incredibly lucky to have such a diverse group of young people working hard to make our country a better place. The recipients of this year’s Awards have achieved so much and contributed to their communities in many ways. I believe that recognising positive actions taken by young people is one of my most important roles as the Minister for Youth,” Peeni Henare said.

This year, there are seven Awards categories with 14 recipients as follows:

The Prime Minister's Exemplar Award

Jessica Collins (21, Palmerston North)

Jessica is passionate about supporting Māori mental health and preventing suicide. In 2018, she created and led the Mana Whenua Hikoi during which she walked 668km over 21 days to honour the 668 people who took their lives in New Zealand during 2017. Jessica was able to raise $2,500 for Lifeline and raise awareness of the mana whenua approach to suicide prevention.

 Aroha Lawrence (20, Kaikohe)

Aroha is a community leader and champion for differently abled rangatahi. Born with a form of dwarfism resulting in her requiring a wheelchair, she hasn’t allowed this to act as an obstacle. She was Head Girl of Northland College before studying design, at Ākau Studio in Kaikohe. She regularly volunteers by delivering art and design workshops to rangatahi. She has shared her story at Festival for the Future in 2018 and is an Inspiring Stories Future Leaders Programme participant.

Te Manukura - Leadership Award

Irihapeti Edwards (20, Whangarei/ Auckland)

Irihapeti is a champion of global citizenship and youth participation. She was the youngest member of the UN Youth New Zealand Globalisation Tour and the youngest person to be awarded a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Latin America.

Fahad Shehzad (17, Auckland)

Fahad is a young Muslim student at Mt Roskill Grammar School. Deeply affected by the Christchurch mosque attacks, he stepped up and guided his school’s response to the shootings. This included the creation of a large banner of support for the families affected, letter writing, fundraising, organising a school assembly, giving a speech and ensuring that fellow students had the necessary support.

Te Raukura - Inclusion Award

Jaskiran Kaur Rahi (12, Wellington)

Jaskiran created her social enterprise Spirit and Soul to empower young girls to explore career opportunities which are traditionally male-dominated such as STEM, the police, and the armed services. Her first event was themed ‘When I was Young’ and held at Te Papa. Industry leaders including CEO of WorkSafe, Nicole Rosie, and former CEO of the Ministry of Women, Jo Cribb, inspired young women to think creatively about their future.

Rongxue Shen (22, Auckland)

Rongxue initiated a project called WNZW (WǒMen: New Zealand Women) which seeks to empower and inspire women from ethnic minorities to pursue leadership roles. Four events featuring top-class speakers from across a range of business, political and academic leadership positions have been successfully delivered to around 500 young women by WNZW.

Taiao - Commitment to the Environment Award

Niels Grosmann (17, Auckland)

Niels is a creative problem-solver who uses his technical know-how to solve real-world environmental issues. Through Volt Electrics, he has reused obsolete laptop batteries which would otherwise have gone to landfill to power e-bikes, creating an affordable eco-friendly transport option. His new project is called Intura and it aims to design eco-friendly and affordable housing solutions using 3D printing and pre-fabrication.

Sophie Handford (18, Kāpiti)

Sophie is a young environmentalist who was inspired by the student climate strikers in Europe and Australia and decided that it was needed in Aotearoa. The first New Zealand School Strike 4 Climate was held on 15 March 2019 and engaged 20,000 young people in climate action. A follow-up strike has since taken place and a number of regional councils have responded by declaring ‘climate emergencies.’ Sophie is Youth MP for Hon Kris Faafoi for the 2019 New Zealand Youth Parliament.

Mahi Tahi - Collective Award

Teresa Lee (20, Waitematā)

Teresa is a young Chinese-New Zealander who is passionate about youth empowerment, diverse leadership and inclusivity. She is the Auckland Regional President of UN Youth New Zealand and has developed the strategic plan for the tertiary and secondary outreach programmes to engage 2000 rangatahi across the upper North Island. She recently led an outreach event in South Auckland which connected with 300 Pasifika youth from low socio-economic backgrounds through the AUT UniPrep Programme.

Robin Kapeteni (20, Manurewa)

Robin is a youth leader in South Auckland and integral to the development and delivery of MYSTORY, which entails youth-focused events designed to give space to young people to share their stories. She has contributed a youth rainbow voice and connected the rainbow community to this initiative and has shared her story with more than 200 young people throughout South Auckland.

Auaha - Innovation Award

Grace Stratton (19, Auckland)

Grace is described as passionate, innovative and driven to bring the fashion/beauty industry and the disability community together. Grace is the Founding Director of All is for All, an online platform which ensures all people regardless of ability are able to access the fashion industry and ensures the industry can access models with diverse abilities.

Christina Min (17, Auckland)

Christina is passionate about supporting low-vision children and created Touch to Read, an initiative which creates tactile children’s books for pre-school children with low vision. She has produced, published and distributed her book “Who’s Under the Sea?” to more than 60 low-vision children. She is currently assisting with research at the University of Auckland to further explore the science behind low-vision disorders in children.

Tūao - Volunteer Award

Petra Jellyman (16, Kaikōura)

Petra has been a member of the Kaikōura Youth Council since 2013, holding both chairperson and secretary roles. Petra has been a volunteer Ranger with GirlGuiding NZ, is an Assistant Brownie leader, and a member of the GirlGuiding NZ Ranger Advocacy Panel, a national youth advisory body. She was a volunteer with the Kaikōura Community Meal programme between 2016-2018. She is Head Librarian at Kaikōura High School and a participant at the 2019 New Zealand UN Declaration.

Rawhiti Erstich-Coles (18, Kaikohe)

Rawhiti has been involved in numerous Far North community initiatives and projects. He is a representative on the Students Against Dangerous Driving National Committee. He is a youth mentor and member of the Far North Youth Council. He was selected for the Inspiring Stories Future Leaders Programme and for the Hawea Vercoe Leadership Programme. He is a youth representative with UN Youth New Zealand and is Youth MP for Hon Kelvin Davis for the 2019 New Zealand Youth Parliament.

“The Awards winners will inspire and encourage other young people to get involved and make a difference. I’d also like to recognise all of those who were nominated for an Award this year. It’s demonstrated to me that Aotearoa New Zealand is in good hands for the future. Our country is full of committed, creative, and talented young people who are leading change and developing innovative solutions,” Peeni Henare said.

Notes for Editor

  • The 2019 New Zealand Youth Awards are designed to recognise and celebrate the passion, success and commitment of rangatahi aged 12 to 24 years, who are leading change, innovating and creating solutions throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • More information about the 2019 New Zealand Youth Awards, including category descriptions, is available on the Ministry of Youth Development’s website.
  • 133 Awards entries were assessed by an external judging panel which included youth representation.
  • Detailed biographies of each recipient are available at http://www.myd.govt.nz/documents/young-people/new-zealand-youth-awards-2019-programme-final.pdf .
  • The MC for the Awards event is Ezekiel Raui. He is a member of the Ministry of Youth Development’s Partnership Fund Board. He is also a recipient of the Queen’s Young Leader Award (2018) and is passionate about helping address mental health and wellbeing for young New Zealanders.
  • The Keynote Speaker for the Awards event is Kendall Flutey. She received the Young New Zealander of the Year Award for 2019 and is a previous winner of a New Zealand Youth Award. She started a company called Banqer which teaches financial literacy skills to young people.
  • The New Zealand Youth Awards (known as the Youth Week Awards up until 2016) are now in its sixth year.