Abel Tasman Youth Ambassador showing environmental leadership


Former Abel Tasman Youth Ambassador Shay Oates is the first recipient of a new award recognising Golden Bay High School students’ work to enhance environmental awareness.

Shay was awarded the Rangatahi Environmental Award, He Kaitiaki o Te Taiao which recognises students who foster a personal conservation ethic at school and home. She received a Pounamu/wooden plaque created by local whakairo, Geoff Williams and choose Project Janszoon as the community organisation to receive a donation from the awards sponsor, Golden Bay High School’s guidance counselor Abbey Gilligan.

Shay was an Abel Tasman Youth Ambassador in 2018. Last year she was leader of student group Earth Guardians and helped organise climate action marches in Takaka. Shay also represented her school at enviroschools meetings and organised a planting day at Hadfield Clearing, bringing together Earth Guardians and Abel Tasman Youth Ambassadors to take action.

She says she is really happy to be the first recipient of the award. “My passion for the environment began with a bird book I read at primary school. A long time later I started to learn more about our connection to the environment and the large impact, both positive and negative, that we have on the natural environment. This motivated me to become involved with the school strike for climate movement in 2019.”

Earth Guardians work on projects within school and with community groups and Shay says it has been a great way of continuing her environmental work following her time as an Abel Tasman Youth Ambassador (ATYA). 

“The highlights of my time with ATYA was getting to see first-hand the action being done to protect and enhance the biodiversity of the Abel Tasman, with this giving me some hope that the biodiversity of all of New Zealand could similarly be improved and enhanced over the coming years,” says Shay.

Abbey Gilligan says Shay was also a student advocate who promoted sustainability standards being included in the school’s senior Social Sciences courses in 2020.

“I am so proud of Shay and her work as an Kaitiaki for the environment! She is a wonderful young woman who has great potential as a passionate and determined leader,” says Abbey.

Project Janszoon education coordinator Brooke Turner says the Abel Tasman Youth Ambassador programme was designed to foster the next generation of environmentalists so it is great to see the work Shay is undertaking.

“Shay was one of those students that you know straight away are going to continue to be a voice for the environment. She has faced challenges being an environmental leader, yet none of that has hindered her enthusiasm and determination, we are so lucky to have her.”


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