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The four Future Thinker of the Year finalists with the team from the New Zealand Green Building Council

Sustainability engineer scoops inaugural New Zealand green leadership award

‘Beyond excited’ was how the very first winner of the Future Thinker of the Year Award, Kate Boylan, described her feelings when her name was announced at the celebratory ceremony in April.



Future Thinkers is a network of professionals, students and recent graduates who are committed to creating a sustainable built environment in Aotearoa. The Future Thinker of the Year Award is presented to a young, passionate green building advocate with thought leader attributes, who has already demonstrated environmental initiative and authority.

Kate, a sustainability engineer at Tonkin + Taylor, wowed the audience at the gala event with a five-minute presentation, which each of the four high-quality finalists had to give to a packed room at the University of Auckland.

Opening with a motivating quote from Greta Thunberg, Kate’s presentation was full of inspiration and highlighted the power of leading by example. Her recognition of other green trailblazers emphasised her focus on collaboration, combining a bottom-up approach in industry with a government-led policy approach.

Inform, educate and inspire

Kate is walking the talk, having founded the sustainability team in her workplace. She used her platform on the night to draw a comparison between possibilities for future climate policy and the immediate industry response to the Health and Safety at Work Act.

After being announced as the inaugural Future Thinker of the Year, Kate said: “I was incredibly humbled, inspired and overwhelmed all at once – all the feels!” and expressed her thanks to all those involved.

She says she intends to use the platform to “to inform, educate and inspire – and be inspired. I will aim to stay positive and promote communication and collaboration.”

The NZ Green Building Council’s Joanne Duggan congratulated Kate and all the finalists, saying: “The Future Thinkers Award has identified amazing young professionals and students across the country who are passionate and knowledgeable about the sustainable built environment. We are excited to give this group a platform from which to have their ideas heard and to challenge the industry status quo, and we look forward to creating meaningful change together.”

Depth of understanding

The judging panel included Phil Eaton of Greenstone Group, Lloyd Budd from Bayleys Real Estate, Mott MacDonald’s Warner Brunton, Ritva Vilppolla (a former intern with the NZGBC, who kicked off her promising career with WSP Australia as a sustainability consultant) and Joanne Duggan.

Warner Brunton said: “I was thoroughly impressed by the calibre of the candidates from academia, trades and the private sector. Their depth of understanding of one of the most pressing challenges of our time and their ability to plan and articulate their engagement strategy for change was inspiring. My hope is for all of the finalists to work together to make a difference in 2019 and beyond.”

Alongside Kate, the other finalists included Alice Couchman, assistant development manager for Willis Bond & Co; Delight M Sedzro, PhD engineering candidate at AUT University; and Priscila Besen, PhD architecture candidate at the University of Auckland.


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