Southern pupils feature strongly

Otago Boys' High School pupils (from left) Benjamin Wardhaugh, Patrick Sinclair and Andrew Kennedy (all 17) on the steps of Parliament, following their success at the New Zealand Treasury Schools' Challenge in Wellington. Photo supplied.
Otago Boys' High School pupils (from left) Benjamin Wardhaugh, Patrick Sinclair and Andrew Kennedy (all 17) on the steps of Parliament, following their success at the New Zealand Treasury Schools' Challenge in Wellington. Photo supplied.
The answers to some of the nation's future financial dilemmas may rest in the hands of pupils from southern secondary schools.

There was an imbalance in the results churned out at the final of the New Zealand Treasury Schools' Challenge this year, when James Hargest College (Invercargill) won the competition and Otago Boys' High School came third equal.

The challenge gives New Zealand senior secondary school pupils the chance to put themselves in the shoes of a Treasury analyst by researching and recommending policies to raise living standards.

The competition aims to stimulate discussion and fresh debate on the Treasury's core work; give pupils an opportunity to apply economic principles to real-world policy making; and encourage pupils to take an interest in economics and public policy as a career option.

This year, schools were asked to prepare a briefing to the incoming finance minister on the issues facing the New Zealand economy and policies to address them.

The first stage of the competition was to write a 2000-word fully referenced essay, and the top 10 teams were invited to attend the final in Wellington, to present their policy ideas to a judging panel of two Treasury analysts and two Victoria University professors.

For Otago Boys' High School, it was the third year in a row the school had reached the national final.

Members of the 2014 Otago Boys' team, Benjamin Wardhaugh, Patrick Sinclair and Andrew Kennedy, were delighted with the result.

''We were pretty stoked when we found out,'' Benjamin said.

''We've put in a lot of hard work, so it was good to get rewarded with a placing.''

The boys focused on the issue of inequality and the failure of conventional ''trickle-down economic theory'' to address the problem.

They decided to tackle the issues at the root of the problem - income inequality - with the notion that reducing income inequality improves social cohesion and social mobility, which leads to more equitable life outcomes.

They suggested changing the progressive income tax system and overhauling the family tax credit system, to include families that are beneficiaries.

The tax credit policy was especially focused on reducing the negative impact of child poverty on inclusion, social mobility and life outcomes.

Recognising that businesses also needed support to promote investment and create employment opportunities, the boys also proposed the reintroduction of a research and development tax credit.

Results: James Hargest College (1); Christchurch Girls' High School (2); Otago Boys' High School and New Plymouth Girls' High School (3=).john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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