New Zealand

Climate change won’t wait for future innovation, we need to act now

Emerging leaders from Wellington who tackled the tough challenge of meeting climate change head on using the design thinking approach with Smart Seeds.

by Aimee-Jo Coupe

December 19, 2022

Burning hot climate solutions hit Wellington leaders

As climate related impacts accelerate, adapting to climate change has become a global priority. Climate related risk poses uncertainty for our future, which is why we need to act with urgency and develop innovative solutions to limit our carbon footprint. There is a lot of power in harnessing collective action to solve complex problems and Smart Seeds is one avenue to do just that.

Smart Seeds

“In the lead up to COP27, GHD young professionals were invited to share their views on climate change, which revealed that 79% of respondents feel ‘extremely concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about climate change,” shares GHD’s Graduate Environmental Scientist, Natalie Trayling. “Climate change can be a massive burden on us but channeling that anxiety and uncertainty into fresh solutions relevant to our specific communities is important. This way of thinking can allow us to thrive and not just survive through this global catastrophe.”

Over ten weeks, emerging leaders representing Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Brian Perry Civil, Colliers, Cure Kids, Domino's, Eagle Technology, Fletcher Living, Genesis, Hawkins, Higgins, Kāinga Ora, NZDF, PWC, Shape NZ, UNICEF, GHDWoodhead creativespaces and GHD took on three climate related challenges for the Auckland region:


  • Travel fair without fear: How might we ensure an equitable future in transport to avert climate disaster?
  • Hearing all voices: How might we involve a more diverse range of voices in our region’s climate change decision-making?
  • Doing more with less: How might we deliver climate impact reduction in construction, given the operating environment?


Participants worked together with their mentors to develop fresh, innovative solutions to these challenges and then pitched them to industry leaders and four judges - Adrienne Miller, CEO of Urban Development Institute of New Zealand, Cathy Bebelman, Environment Programme Director from Auckland Transport, Danushka Abeysuriya, Chief Technology Officer and Founder of Rush Digital and Siobhan Hartwell, Regional General Manager NZ/Pacific at GHD.



The six climate solutions

  • Conch Certified: A certification body that assesses an organisations willingness and ability to engage with youth, internal and external to their organisations, in a meaningful and constructive way. By being ‘Conch Certified’, organisations are saying to youth: ‘We listen, we act, and we are accountable’.
  • Conquer: An innovative integration platform, built on a database of supplier and material information, enabling end users to effectively compare resource options and the corresponding carbon footprint.
  • Haere: A solution that combines domestic freight and rideshare services to provide a reliable and affordable transport option for the mobility impaired, that maintains dignity and reduces carbon emissions.
  • ModeSHIFT: A concept which influences commuter behaviours in a fun and simple way; offering people financial rewards for using more sustainable modes of transport.
  • Green Stamp: A ground up approach to create a recognised culture of sustainability across construction sites in Aotearoa. Green Stamp would sit under the Site Safe passport umbrella as an additional course within their existing framework. Courses would be geared towards engaging contractors on the ground who are the frontline of construction and demolition waste management, providing them with local, relevant recognised training.
  • Habitats: A platform that offers a safe space for diverse youth to voice their opinion on climate-impacting decisions, allowing these voices to be heard by the decision-makers who are developing our built environment.
communicating with clients
stage talk
group photo

“We can all contribute to a climatically prosperous future, whether that be as an innovator, activist, or change maker. This year’s theme [climate change] allowed emerging leaders to think deeper about climate change, innovate, ideate and be an agent for change in their community,” shares Natalie. “Fostering a collective responsibility is key. We need to work together to achieve our climate change goals and thereby create a better future for our planet.”

The judges were very impressed by the quality of all solutions, with ‘Haere’ taking out the Judges Award and ‘ModeSHIFT’ receiving the People’s Choice Award.




“I’m extremely pragmatic, so getting to explore my creative and innovative side was a great challenge” shares Gracen Luka, Associate Development Manager at Fletcher Living and participant of the winning team, ‘Haere’. “The program is structured to align with the design thinking framework, which really pushed us to respond to both the equity and sustainability piece of the challenge and allowed me to refine my leadership skills.”


You’re invited in 2023

We are inviting organisations who believe in the collective creativity of their emerging leaders to partner with us. Smart Seeds provides a facilitated program for developing innovative thinking, and an opportunity for emerging leaders to have a voice in solving pressing issues facing our communities today.

Registrations are now open for our Christchurch program launching early 2023. For more information or to register your interest as an organisation or participant, please contact Hannah Fletcher at

Register your interest