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A bid to build Maori-inspired art
sculptures that generate renewable
energy has made Fiordland College
one of four regional finalists to vie
for the Abu Dhabi-based Zayed
Sustainability Prize. The global prize
rewards solutions and technologies
that can change the world and,
within that, offers six $100,000
(USD) prizes for secondary schools
around the world to develop
sustainability projects of their own.
Instead of putting its source of
energy away from sight, the school
is proposing to install Maori-
themed art sculptures that generate
renewable energy as a way to start
conversations about renewable
energy in the classroom and out in
Three-metre tall koru sculptures
with wind turbines built in the spiral
shape, solar panels that display
student-designed art work, and
tree-like sculptures with solar
panels branching out at the top are
some parts of the project called
"Whitiki te Huarere" (WtH).
In turn, it would benefit the
school through reduced energy
bills and improved sustainability
Fiordland College is the only
New Zealand school in its East Asia
and Pacific category, competing
against three schools in Australia,
Fiji, and the Philippines.
The idea to apply began three
years ago, when college students
and staff were approached at an
Auckland conference by a Zayed
Sustainability Prize outreach co-
ordinator, who encouraged them
Students and staff began to
play around with ideas they could
submit, but it was Dr Sue Peoples,
head of the school's social sciences
department, who discovered the
concept of energy-generating art.
"Whilst we were looking at
ideas, I came across a website in
the United States called 'Land Art
Generation.' These are competitions
around the world where they
get people to submit proposals
showing installations and different
contexts that will generate energy,"
Dr Peoples said.
"I looked at that and just thought
it was amazing. It's just so innovative
and new age and just wicked if
we could bring into the context in
which we're living."
Beyond the appeal of an energy
park meant to stimulate dialogue,
Dr Peoples said there would be
other installations throughout the
school that generated energy for
the school at a higher capacity.
"In the school, it's going to be
quite a focus throughout learning,
but also others out there keen on
taking on renewable resources and
staying off the grid; it'll be a great
place to come and have a look."
The ten students, led by
Dr Peoples, put together the
application that made it to the next
big stage last week.
"I'm pretty pumped about our
kids here. A little rural school, but
they certainly boxed above their
weight," she said.
Fiordland College principal
Lynlee Smith said the winners of
the regional categories wouldn't
be announced until January during
the opening of the Abu Dhabi
Sustainability Week. Beyond the
school prizes, the award recognises
sustainability work in fields like food,
health, and water.
Dr People's said even if they
didn't win, the project would still go
ahead, just a little slower.
"We definitely still want it to go
ahead, and it's showing what we
Fiordland College vies for international prize
A drawing of Fiordland College’s vision for energy-generating art sculptures for the public display.
DRAWING: Dr Sue Peoples
Te Anau’s Fiordland
College is in the running
to win $100,000 USD
to fund a sustainability
project combining art
with renewable energy.
By Claire Kaplan
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