The annual Young Achiever Awards held last week celebrated the achievements of more than 150 youth for excellence in academic, cultural and sporting fields at national or international level.

The awards, organised by Whakatāne District Council, Whakatāne-Ōhope Community Board and Whakatāne Rotary Club, are an opportunity to acknowledge young people, up to and including secondary school age, that have achieved significant accomplishments during the past year.

Mayor Judy Turner says the unprecedented challenges this year meant several opportunities for youth to compete at higher levels were cancelled or postponed.

“Our district produces incredibly diverse and talented people, and these awards are a chance to reflect and celebrate their achievements,” she says. “The COVID-19 lockdown was a barrier for many competitions and tournaments, so we expected numbers to be down this year. However, we were very impressed with the caliber and quantity of award recipients, despite the challenging circumstances.”

The awards have been a fixture for more than 40 years and were first introduced by the late Mayor Rex Morpeth. The ceremony this year included Committee Chairperson, Councillor Lesley Immink, as MC and Talei Bryant as the guest speaker. Ms Bryant is an enthusiastic youth ambassador for the Whakatāne District, who has completed the Future Leaders Programme. She also founded the ‘Find your Fish Movement’ to help young people find their passions and equip them with the skills to face the rollercoaster of millennial life.

Ms Bryant spoke about the importance of making the most of opportunities and seeking inspiration from every moment, and encouraged everyone at the event to find their passion.

“Give everything a go and try everything you can,” Ms Bryant said. “Self-improvement is a journey we can all follow.”

Nominations for the awards include strict eligibility criteria and successful candidates are selected by a sub-committee consisting of representatives from the organisers.