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Published: 2006-09-15 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has awarded its Dame Te Atairangikaahu Scholarship to University of Waikato students Richard Webber and Shannan Mills.

Environment committee chair Lois Livingston said while it was a great pleasure to present the scholarships, the occasion was tinged with sadness. Dame Te Atairangikaahu had on one occasion been at council to congratulate in person recipients of the award.

The scholarship was set up in 1991 to mark the 25th anniversary of the accession of Dame Te Atairangikaahu and is awarded annually to Maori students undertaking resource management courses at Waikato University.

The students each win $2000 and are offered the opportunity to work at Environment Waikato during the summer break. Both live in Hamilton.

Richard Webber, of Ngati Kahungunu descent, lived on Mahia Peninsula before beginning university. He is currently completing a Bachelor of Social Science degree (resources and environmental planning) majoring in geography and Maori.

In future Richard aims to work in local government to promote sustainability and help Maori in this area. He has a particular interest in geographical information systems, resource use, town and environmental planning and tourism planning.

He said the scholarship topped off the support he’d received from whanau and University of Waikato staff.

“My brother told me you’re a product of your environment, so I guess I’m a product of everyone who’s helped me get to this point and I’d like to give something back to them. I’m very grateful for their support.”

Shannan Mills, of Te Whanau-a-Apanui and Whakatohea descent, is in her fourth year of a double degree in science (resources and environmental planning) and law.

Shannan, from Hamilton, is president of the Waikato University Law Student Association. She plans to undertake a career in environmental law, assisting and supporting iwi and whanau in these matters.

“It is a real honour to receive this scholarship,” she said.

“I would like to see myself in a position of leadership in the Maori community and I’m highly interested in working for Environment Waikato, so the fact the scholarship included some work was of huge significance to me.

“I’d like to thank my family for their support in helping me to get where I have today.”

Environment Waikato chair Jenni Vernon, who presented the scholarships, said attending this years celebrations for the 40th anniversary of Dame Te Atairangikaahu had been a “lifetime highlight” and one of the great privileges of her role.

She acknowledged Environment Waikato’s strong relationship with Tainui and wished the new Maori king, Tuheitia, a long and prosperous reign.

“Today is about the future and today’s two recipients of the Dame Te Atairangikaahu scholarship are a good example of that,” she said.

“I know she would be proud of your achievements and she would have been proud to be here and be part of this ceremony.”