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New Zealand team off to World Debating Champs

26 January 2005

New Zealand team off to World Debating Champs

New Zealand’s top four school debaters will soon be travelling to the annual World Schools Debating Championships as part of the Russell McVeagh New Zealand Schools Debating Team. The tournament is to be held in Calgary, Canada, from February 9 to 19.

Generously sponsored by leading New Zealand law firm, Russell McVeagh, the team consists of: Lewis Bollard (Wellington College), Stephen Whittington (Wellington College), Chris Foulkes (King’s College) and Polly Higbee (St Hilda’s Collegiate School). All four were selected at the national finals of the New Zealand Schools Debating Championships in 2004. The team will be coached by Sayeqa Islam, a law student at Victoria University of Wellington, and herself a highly successful school and university debater.

The World Schools Debating Championships was established in 1988 and this year will involve 34 countries making it the largest tournament ever. There are eight preliminary rounds of debates, with the top 16 teams advancing to the first of the knock-out rounds, the octo-finals. To date New Zealand has never failed to make at least the octo-finals.

Lewis Bollard, the team’s captain, said the team were determined to do as well as they could. “We’ll be facing some tough competition, particularly from our usual rivals, the Australians, but we intend to do New Zealand proud.” New Zealand has won the event three times since 1988.

The President of the New Zealand Schools Debating Council, Anna Livesey, said this year’s team was a strong one and the Council had high hopes for them. “This is an exceptionally bright, articulate team. We expect them to do very well indeed.”

Four of the topics the NZ team will debate are known in advance, but for four of the debates, the team will have only one hour to prepare a case. For those debates, no prepared material is allowed to be used, meaning the team must rely only on quick thinking and their own general knowledge.

All of the topics debated are world issues to reflect the global nature of the teams entered. Teams competing in this year's competition range from Slovenia to South Africa. Some of the topics debated in the past include ‘That the United Nations has failed’, ‘That we should cancel third world debt’, and ‘That we should compromise civil liberties in the interests of security.’

This year, the prepared topics range from whether the costs of space exploration outweigh the benefits, whether political parties should receive state funding, and whether affirmative action should be used in response to historical injustice. The latter topic, in particular, appeals to team member Chris Foulkes: “New Zealand’s experience will be useful in that debate, but we’ll need to be careful to use other examples from around the world, as well,” he says.


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