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Whanganui Collegiate Students Top Woodskills Competition

Students from Whanganui Collegiate School have taken out four of the six top awards in the Secondary Schools Creative Woodskills Competition run by Middle Districts Farm Forestry Association and UCOL.

Whanganui Collegiate School student Jessica Johnstone and her award-winning dining chair.

Whanganui Collegiate School students Benjamin Poulton and Lucas Bishop claimed first and third place respectively in the junior category, while Jessica Johnstone and Sophie Michelson took out first and third in the senior category.

Meanwhile Feilding High School’s Zac Brunton took out second in the junior category and Belle Longuet-Higgins of Longburn Adventist College was the runner up in the juniors.

The awards were presented at a prize-giving event at Square Edge Creative Centre in Palmerston North, with Powertool Centre providing prizes.

Running for over a decade now, this year’s competition saw the most entries yet - 26 entries from Whanganui Collegiate School, Feilding High School, Longburn Adventist College, and Awatapu College.

Students entered projects they created in their woodwork classes throughout the year.

The judged panel consisted of UCOL lecturers Andy Halewood and Richard Morris, and Open Polytechnic’s Marius Dryfhout. They assessed the entries based on the difficulty of the design, visual impact, finish, machining/sanding, and joinery.

Senior category winner Jessica Johnstone says she felt amazed to win and was happy that people liked her winning dining chair after she spent a year working on it.

Johnstone was introduced to woodwork as a compulsory subject in Year 9 and has continued with it since. She is weighing up further training and a career involving woodwork.

“I love woodwork. It’s my passion. I don’t know what I’d do without it,” says Johnstone.

Competition organiser and UCOL Furniture Lecturer Rowan Dicks says the high quality finish on a lot of projects really stood out this year.

“The entrants really upped their game on the finish. One of our judges, Andy Halewood, stresses the importance of finish each year and he was really impressed with what the entrants produced this time around.”

Dicks says the competition is a good way for UCOL to connect with young woodworkers and inform them about institute’s Diploma in Fine Furniture programme. Each year at least a couple of competitors go on to do the UCOL programme.


UCOL is a part of Te Pūkenga. Te Pūkenga was established to better meet the needs of learners and employers by bringing together on-job, on-campus and online learning across Aotearoa New Zealand. By 1 January 2023, Te Pūkenga will create a unified, sustainable public network of regionally accessible vocational and applied learning.

Together, we aim to provide excellent quality education opportunities that support learners, employers and communities to gain the skills, knowledge and capabilities Aotearoa needs now and for the future.


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