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Barbara Kuriger, MP for Taranaki-King Country, is delighted to see such an impressive array of young people receiving recognition for their enterprise and ingenuity at the 2017 NZ Youth Awards.

“The awards recognise young New Zealanders who’ve achieved outstanding results and given back to their communities, as well as those who’ve made a significant contribution towards supporting young people,” said Barbara Kuriger.

This year Youth Minister Nikki Kaye received 190 nominations, and 50 people and organisations are to be acknowledged at an awards ceremony in Parliament this evening.

There are eight categories of awards overall, celebrating qualities such as leadership, giving back, and being a change maker.

“I am delighted to announce that my former Youth MP and former Head Girl of Otorohanga College, Ms Leah Bell from Waitomo, has won the Change Maker (Cultural) Award,” said Kuriger.

“Leah has demonstrated exceptional drive, skills, compassion and integrity. This is a remarkable achievement of which I am very proud.

The Cultural Change Maker Award is for those young people who have created positive change to foster cultural understanding in their community.

“I have known Leah for two years now, and it has been an absolute privilege to see her grow into the inspirational young woman she is today. She is a real light in her community, and has touched many people with her leadership, intelligence, and personal ability to connect with individuals.

“Leah has been instrumental in getting New Zealanders across the country to reflect on our nation’s history and the New Zealand Land Wars. After visiting the Maori battle sites at Orakau and Rangiaowhia at aged 14, Leah kick started the petition for a national day of commemoration for the NZ Land Wars to ensure our ancestors are remembered.

“There is a great need in New Zealand schools to recognise our nation’s history, and the advocacy for commemoration of the New Zealand Land Wars that Leah has lead, goes a long way in achieving this. She has helped to put this oft-perceived difficult subject at the fore of our attention. Her cause was also recognised by over 400 Maori elders from around the country, and she ended up delivering a petition with over 12,000 signatures to the Maori Affairs Select Committee and having it tabled in the New Zealand Parliament.

“Maintaining a balance between being a top academic student at Otorohanga College, as well as being the 2016 Head Girl, Leah has been very active in carrying out her duties as a leader in the community. She is active at events, generous with her time and strategically brings ideas for improvement.

“One example is Leah’s planning toward a pledge in the school around values and consent to guide the teenagers in her community. Leah has an immense interest in social justice, and has the drive and passion to take concerns raised with her in her community, and advocate for these at the highest level.

“I am incredibly proud of Leah and all that she has achieved, and I look forward to hearing of her future successes.

“These young people have shown enormous talent and potential. With such bright young minds achieving incredible feats, I have every confidence that the future of our country is in safe hands,” Kuriger said.

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