Eve Hill radiates enthusiasm and pride when she speaks of her work as co-leader of the Palmerston North Girls’ High School’s (PNGHS) Enviro-Group, which she has been involved in since she was a year 9 student. Now in year 12 she is deeply committed to moving the school towards solar energy, ‘Two years of meetings but we will get there’ she notes, and of getting year 9 students actively involved in sustainability linked activities.

2023 has been an auspicious year for PNGHS, an Enviroschool that recently achieved the much-lauded Green- Gold status- the first secondary school in the Manawatū to achieve this. This was the result of over 30 years of work with pioneering teachers such as Dr Heather Meikle and most recently Mrs. Jenny Slade helping push this forward. What both women are abundantly clear about is how this work has been student led, and that without the hard work and enthusiasm of students such as Eve and her co leader Maddi Coenders the school would not have the environmental and sustainability lense and local credence that it does.

For Eve, it’s about the projects and the impact (the school has had a recent, strong focus on waste minimization) but most importantly it’s about the people. Eve speaks of ‘the connections and friendships I have made on the way which if I had not made in year 9 would not have been so strong, the teacher relationships, learning leadership skills and management skills… things that will make transitioning into adulthood easier…’.

Her current passion is solar panels for the school, which she started enquiring into two years ago, and which has been a slow process which she has learned a lot from. Eve wonders ‘if we will achieve the goal before we leave in year 13…’ but notes ‘if we don’t we plan to go and get great jobs and save up and pay for it for the school ourselves’. No, is not an answer for her or her fellow students and teachers; for them it means ‘Next Opportunity’ a mark perhaps of why the school is so successful in its sustainability focus and that there is a real buzz and excitement about ‘What next?’

PNGHS Enviro Group is a member group of Environment Network Manawatū. Find out more on www.enm.org.nz.