A Kaikoura teenager has been awarded one of a handful of coveted places for young New Zealanders on a Blue Light programme - the first of its kind in the country.
Zach Cuff, a year 12 Kaikoura High School student, will be one of just six participants from the South Island to take part in the week-long residential programme.
Two more teams of six young people from the North Island, as well as teams from South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and the Solomon Islands, will join them.
The programme is co-ordinated by Blue Light New Zealand, in partnership with the New Zealand Police, and will begin at the Police College in Wellington on November 18.
Activities over five days will cover a range of topics including training in leadership skills, drug and alcohol education, community service, goal setting, outdoor education, personal and career development and cultural experiences.
Zach and his fellow young leaders will move on to Rotorua before finishing at the New Zealand defence force base in Hobsonville, Auckland later in the week.
Blue Light chief operating officer Brendon Compton said today's youth faced a number of challenges within their families, socially and from their peer groups.
"For a variety of reasons young people with talent in sport, the arts and academia often don't reach their potential both in their work life and personal life.
"This course is to develop selected young people to become tomorrow's leaders and think about their life in an international context."
Zac's nomination came from Tony Anker, who has been instrumental in setting up and running the Cactus programme in Kaikoura for the past two years, and for which Zach was awarded the leadership award both years.
Tony is thrilled the nomination was successful.
"What I love about Zach is he's not just a good role model, he's also always he first to say thank you after a good tough workout. I've seen him as a good leader with rugby and with Cactus and he really deserves this."
For Zach, the prospect of building on this experience is exciting.
"It will be really good because I wanted to get better leadership skills to bring back to the school and the community," he says.
However, having already been through a gruelling outward bound course earlier in the year - the prize for his 2011 Cactus leadership award - he is not expecting a walk in the park. "Outward bound was a pretty challenging 21 days, but this is meant to be harder than outward bound - so I know it's going to really hard."
He is no stranger to fitness, however, enjoying all sports, but in particular touch, basketball, surfing, snow-boarding and diving. He is also one of a team of new recruits in the volunteer fire brigade, so he is not shy of commitment either. Keen for the position of head boy next year, Zach hopes to learn some valuable leadership tools next week which he will be able to put to good use as he goes on to further education and the workforce.
Blue Light NZ is a registered charity and community policing youth programme which aims to reduce youth crime, build community partnerships, build young people's self-esteem, enhance community safety and build positive youth and police partnerships.
- © Fairfax NZ News