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Media statement

Southland, Taranaki & Canterbury teams top Schools Challenge

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
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Southland's James Hargest College, New Plymouth Girls' High School and Christchurch Girls' High School have taken top honours in the 2013 Treasury Schools Challenge. The schools overcame strong competition from around the country, after 10 finalist teams travelled to Wellington to present their ideas for how to lift New Zealand's long-term economic growth rate.

Finalists were selected after 30 schools from around New Zealand submitted essays outlining how they would improve economic growth over the long-term. Teams were given 10 minutes to present their ideas to an expert panel, followed by five minutes of questions.

"The calibre of entries was excellent. The finalists thought about the growth challenge and their policies carefully, and delivered polished presentations. They were all impressive, so to come out on top is a special achievement," says Treasury Deputy Secretary Bill Moran.

James Hargest College has won the Schools Challenge for the second year running. At the heart of the team's 2013 presentation was a 'Hexagon of Happiness', where each corner represented a different criterion a policy could be assessed against. Modelled on the Treasury's Living Standards Framework, the hexagon was used to evaluate policies not only in terms of economic growth, but against various social, cultural and environmental dimensions.

"The James Hargest team approached the Challenge in a very systematic way. Their analysis was well compiled, their policies took account of their community's views, and the team presented with confidence and personality," says Professor Norman Gemmell, Chair in Public Finance, Victoria University of Wellington Business School, who chaired the judging panel.

The judges were unable to separate the New Plymouth Girls' High School and Christchurch Girls' High School entries, which have been awarded second equal.

"The Christchurch Girls' team thought through the problem well, and their policy recommendations were well targeted to what they considered to be the 'essential' growth issues New Zealand needs to solve. The presentation was shared effectively across the team, and they rose to the challenge when grilled by the judges," says Dr. Gemmell.

"The strength of the New Plymouth Girls' High School presentation was the awareness of the 'supply-side' aspect of the economic growth problem. The policies they proposed also linked well to specific productivity issues, such as looking at company tax rates to encourage firms to be more capital intensive, or how possible changes to KiwiSaver might lift savings and investment."

Students from the three winning teams will each receive an $800 electronic voucher, provided by Victoria University of Wellington. The James Hargest College team will also each receive scholarships valued at $2,000 to study at Victoria University. The New Plymouth Girls' and Christchurch Girls' High School team members will receive scholarships valued at $1,000 each.

Selwyn College's Dylan van Lier has been awarded Best Speaker prize for 2013, and will receive the same prize as the second equal teams.

"We would like to thank all of the students who took part in the Schools Challenge this year, and wish them well for the future. We'd also like to give a special thank you to the teachers, who clearly put in a lot of effort to help teams prepare and present. We hope all of the schools who entered this year will be up for the challenge again in 2014," says Mr Moran.



Media Contact:

Aidan Meerman| Communications, The Treasury
Tel: +64 4 917 6163

Mob: +64 21 396 828


The Treasury Schools Challenge – background information

The Treasury is the government's lead advisor on economic, financial and regulatory policy. Our vision is to raise living standards for New Zealanders. We advise governments on managing the economy, the country's finances, and the public sector which provides services to all New Zealanders.

Now in its second year, the Treasury Schools Challenge is a competition for secondary school students which aims to:

  • stimulate discussion and fresh debate on the Treasury's core work
  • give students an opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of a Treasury analyst and apply economic principles to real-world policy making
  • encourage students to take an interest in economics and public policy as a career option.

The Treasury runs the Schools Challenge in partnership with Victoria University of Wellington, which provides over $25,000 in prizes for winning teams, in the form of electronics vouchers and scholarships.

How it works

The competition involves teams of up to four students submitting an essay on a specified topic relating to the Treasury's work to raise living standards for New Zealanders. The top 10 schools from around the country are then invited to present their policy ideas to a panel of expert judges.

In 2013 over 30 schools entered the Challenge. The final was held in Wellington on 19 June. The finalists were:

  • James Hargest College (winner)
  • Christchurch Girls' High School (second equal)
  • New Plymouth Girls' High School (second equal)
  • Hillcrest High School
  • Hutt Valley High School
  • Mt Maunganui College
  • Otago Boys High School
  • Pakuranga College
  • Selwyn College
  • Wellington College

This year's topic

The 2013 Schools Challenge asked teams to research and advocate policies to improve New Zealand's long-term economic growth rate.

New Zealand's average GDP per capita growth for the last six decades has been lower than all other OECD countries. New Zealand's GDP per capita ranked third among OECD countries in 1950 and 22nd in 2009 (of 34 OECD member countries). In order to maintain and improve New Zealand's relative living standards we need to materially narrow the income gap between New Zealand and the most advanced economies.

More information


Last updated: 
Tuesday, 25 June 2013