Class Act 2023: Columba College

Briar Duncan


When 17-year-old Briar Duncan is not at school or on the hockey pitch, you will find her on a motorbike.

"I just love going home from boarding school, going for a motorbike ride and helping dad," she says.

The Columba College deputy head prefect keeps track of her busy schedule by keeping a calendar and writing everything down.

"I just plan well, I guess," she says.

Briar has played hockey since she was 5 and is captain of the Columba first XI hockey team. She has played for the City Highlanders premier women’s hockey team, the Otago U15 and U18s.

In 2021, she also played for the Junior Black Sticks, all while achieving NCEA levels 1 and 2 with excellence endorsement, being in the college kapa haka group and co-chairperson of the student council.

She has also rowed for Columba College and played in the rugby first XV, senior A rugby sevens, cricket first XI and senior A volleyball.

But Briar says she does not plan to pursue sports fulltime. Instead, she is looking to attend Massey University, in Palmerston North, and study to become a veterinarian.

Alternatively, if she stays in Dunedin, she plans to study psychology at Otago and continue with her sport.

Briar says the people she looks up to most are her parents and she wants to put in as much effort as they do.

"They’re really hardworking," she says.

"They’ve given me these opportunities, so I need to make the most of them."


Achievements:  NCEA levels 1 and 2, excellence endorsed; deputy head prefect; 2023 co-chairperson student council (2023); Dunedin joint student council (2023); Otago Academy of Sport (2023); Outward Bound (2023); first XI hockey (2019, 2023), vice-captain (2022), captain (2023); City Highlanders hockey premier women (2022, 2023); Otago U15 hockey (2019); Otago U18 hockey team (2021, 2022, 
2023), MVP (2021), captain (2023); U18 Junior Black Sticks (2022); NZSS rowing squad (2022, 2023),  first U18 quad, (2023), fourth U18 double (2023),  second novice double sculls, second novice coxed quad (2022); SISS rowing,  first U18 quad, first U18 double (2023), second novice coxed quad, third novice coxed four (2022); rugby first XV (2019, 2020, 2021), senior A rugby sevens (2020, 2021, 2022); cricket first XI (2019, 2020, 2021); volleyball, senior A (2021), junior A (2020); sports blues, hockey, rowing (2022); runner-up Columba College best all-round sportswoman (2020); best Columba junior sportswoman (2020); coaching award, year 7 and 8 hockey (2022, 2023). 

Role models: Her parents 

Hopes for the future: To study to be a veterinarian.


Zoe McElrea
Zoe McElrea
Zoe McElrea


Zoe McElrea is going places.

The 18-year-old Junior Young Farmer of the Year, who grew up in Milton, wants to use the law to help people, wherever they are.

"I like international geopolitics," Zoe says. "And I’d like to make a difference."

Zoe is a three-time Otago-Southland Young Farmer of the Year regional final winner, but this year won the Junior Young Farmer of the Year title with her twin brother Millar.

She is also a member of the student council and a Youth Parliament participant.

Zoe says debating is also a significant part of her life, but the academic prefect has never let her extracurricular activities get in the way of academic performance.

She has achieved NCEA levels 1 and 2 with excellence endorsement, academic blues, STEM blues and the Clarice Ashworth award for first in year 12.

Zoe says having growing up on a family farm near a small town will help her assist people from all walks of life.

When looking for role models, Zoe looks up to American politician Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

"She’s definitely got some admirable qualities.

"And she’s really outspoken."

In her limited free time, the Columba College pupil has been debating whether to attend university in Dunedin or Wellington.

Either way, she has her sights firmly set on an international law degree, with honours.

The thing that draws her to Wellington, however, is its proximity to Parliament, New Zealand’s seat of power and law-making.

It is a place requiring traits she sees in herself.

"I’m pretty good at arguing," she says.

"I’ve always done a lot of leadership stuff and advocating for people."


Achievements: 2023 Junior Young Farmer of the Year; academic prefect; co-captain, debating club; Columba 1 debating team; Otago Community Trust Rangatahi-led funding panel; Young Enterprise, marketing director; Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary award, silver; 2022 academic blues, STEM blues; scholarship English and history; Clarice Ashworth award for first in year 12; NCEA levels 1 and 2, excellence endorsed; arts blue, debating; fourth place Junior Young Farmer of the Year grand final; Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary award, bronze; Youth Parliament; SISS netball umpire; zone theory umpiring award; 2022-23 student representative, board of schools; 2021 academic blues, STEM blues; 2021-23 Otago development debating squad; 2021-23 Otago-Southland Young Farmer of the Year regional final 
winner; 2021-23 netball umpiring; 2021 senior netball, basketball, hockey and touch; social senior tartan netball, boarders’ basketball 2022, 23; student council 2017-20 and 2022-23. 

Role model: American politician Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez

Hopes for the future: To study international law at either Victoria University of Wellington, or University of Otago.