13 Nov 2012

High achieving Pacific youth honoured at Parliament

10:25 pm on 13 November 2012

A Samoan teenager who plays rugby for New Zealand, despite losing both legs and a hand to meningitis, is among this year's recipients of the Prime Minister's Pacific youth awards.

The awards recognise outstanding achievement among young Pacific leaders.

Barney Koneferenisi,18, plays for the Wheelblacks wheelchair rugby team and is the deputy head boy at his south Auckland high school.

He won the inspiration award and plans to use the $5000 prize to help disabled children in the Pacific.

Mr Koneferenisi says he will ask island governments to build shelters to take care of disabled children because often they are left to fend for themselves.

Communications solution

The inaugural "mobiles4good" award went to Douglas Quensell, 23, the only Tongan studying electrical engineering at Auckland University.

Mr Quensell has designed a computer simulation that works out the best locations for cellphone towers on Pacific islands with lots of mountains or other obstacles.

He says it will help remote or isolated Pacific communities to stay in touch by making it cheaper and easier to set up mobile communications networks.

Other awards

The leadership award went to Auckland University engineering and commerce student, Karina Kaufusi, 20. She wins $6000 in tuition fees.

A conceptual artist, Pati AhSue, 23, won the Creativity award and a year's paid internship at Weta Workshop.

The innovation award and an aviation mechanics course at Air New Zealand was won by Ranamila Joji Chute,18, a student at Birkenhead College.

The five winners were chosen from more than 100 applicants.

They received their awards from Prime Minister John Key at Parliament on Tuesday.

Mr Key says they are role models for their talent, hard work and contributions to their schools and communities.