Student focussed on sustainability with the aim of helping her iwi

31 October 2019

Abbey Huriwai
Abbey Huriwai, pictured at the Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu Scholarship awards, hopes to take what she learns in environmental science to help her iwi on issues of sustainability.

A campaign to curb McDonald’s single use straws spurred Hamilton student Abbey Huriwai to study Environmental Science and Biodiversity at the University of Waikato.

Miss Huriwai says she has always had an interest in biology, and at high school one of her teachers spoke a lot about environmental problems facing the world.

“It was after seeing a video about single use plastic straws we decided to launch a campaign aimed at McDonald’s.”

Miss Huriwai and two friends launched the campaign to have McDonald’s stop offering single use plastic straws. They campaigned to have a “straw on request” policy implemented by McDonald’s.

“Ultimately McDonald’s didn’t want to change what they were doing, but the campaign definitely furthered my interest in sustainability issues,” Miss Huriwai said.

Miss Huriwai, who is connected to Waikato-Tainui and Maniapoto iwi, is in her first year of study at the University of Waikato.

She said there weren’t as many Māori students moving into environmental sciences and she believed it was an important area for Māori to be involved.

“We can work towards helping our own iwi and hapū. I’d love to be able to work for my iwi one day in the area of sustainability. There are so many issues from our marae, and the land connected to that including our rivers and waterways. I’d like to be part of helping to protect that eventually.”

She said her first year at the University of Waikato has been a challenging one and she hopes to broaden her area of study in 2020, taking more environmental planning and environmental biodiversity papers.

“I guess my ultimate job would be working for Waikato-Tainui or with one of the councils in an environmental sustainability role. Doing the double major is great because it will open up career options for me when I enter the workforce later,” Miss Huriwai said.

She is currently living at home with her parents while studying, and said she continues to encourage them to live more sustainably as well, helping to reduce the family’s waste.

“It’s just little things. Like I got my mum those reusable produce bags to use. We’re always looking for how we can do things more sustainably. Every little bit helps.”

Miss Huriwai is one of nine recipients of the Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu Scholarship, supported by Waikato Regional Council and Waikato-Tainui. She received $1000 towards the first year of her study for a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Environmental Science and Ecology and Biodiversity.

The scholarships were established in 1991 to mark the 25th anniversary of Te Atairangikaahu becoming Māori queen, to pay tribute to her leadership and help Māori studying at the University of Waikato.

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