Genevieve Scott-Jones is a teenager looking forward to going off the grid. That’s because she’s set for a two-week adventure to the Kermadec Islands.
"It’s an obscure place," the 17-year-old Hamiltonian said. "I know it’s a reserve, so species there are special. I heard it’s a snapshot of what New Zealand was like before people lived on it."
Genevieve will travel on Monday to the nature and marine reserve 1000 kilometres northeast of New Zealand as part of the Sir Peter Blake Trust’s Young Blake Expeditions.
The St Paul’s Collegiate student spent her weekend preparing, cleaning every last speckle of sand from her tramping boots.
She'll join 19 others, including Hamilton Girls' High student Rebecca-Rose Ngatai, to learn about the near-pristine environment of the islands, which are the visible bits of a chain of 80 or so volcanoes stretching between New Zealand and Tonga.
"There’s an extensive gear list, but my main thing is making sure everything is clean and ready to go, so I've been scrubbing all of my shoes in preparation for going around the island," Genevieve said.
"I'm really excited. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We haven't been told a lot on what we're doing, but I know we are dolphin counting, so that will be cool."
The New Zealand Defence Force project means the group will travel on the HMNZS Canterbury, a vessel of the Royal New Zealand Navy.
On board will be a range of scientists, marine ecologists and ornithologists. The expedition leader is Sir Peter Blake’s friend and crewmate Professor Mark Orams.
Genevieve was eligible to apply to the programme through last year’s participation in the Sir Peter Blake Trust Youth EnviroLeaders Forum. They spent time doing leadership training, travelled to Rangitoto Island and Goat Island doing environmental research, picking up rubbish and snorkelling in a marine reserve.
She said there’s more to the trust’s programmes than science.
"I think the environment is a very important issue that our generation has to focus on – I don't think you necessarily have to be an environmental scientist to care about the environment.
"I wouldn't say I have a passion for science, but I enjoy being in the outdoors and the leadership development skills you learn from the trust are amazing."
She’s put those skills to use at school.
"It has changed the way I thought about leadership. I've learned lots about team building and just being around other kids my age that are extremely powerful, amazing leaders doing incredible things in their community.
"It’s inspiring and I've incorporated what I learned into my prefect role at school."
Rebecca-Rose Ngatai, who’s in Year 13 at Hamilton Girls' High, was also selected to attend.
She’s interested in exploring an isolated piece of the world that a lot of New Zealanders don't know exists.
She said the environment is something she is conscious about and she wants to spread the conservation message.
"My grandparents and parents taught me a lot growing up about caring for the environment. It’s important for everyone, but especially for people my age, heading into the future."
She’s looking forward to working with scientists and surveying dolphins, seabirds and coral.
"I am so excited. I haven't shut up about it for the past few days now."
Both young women encouraged other teens to apply for The Sir Peter Blake Trust’s programmes.
"Go for it," Rebecca-Rose said. "It is a life-changing experience where you meet so many like-minded people."
The group will set sail from Auckland and return on March 9.
Sir Peter Blake Trust environment programme director Hannah Prior said the group will see turtles, seabirds, dolphins, corals and other marine life.
"By understanding what our oceans can look like, our young people will come home ready to look after our ocean closer to home and inspire others in their networks to do the same.
"Sir Peter knew that experiencing the natural environment was the most important step in moving people towards caring for and protecting it."