Back to All News

James Newland

Last year, James Newland, ACG Sunderland Head Boy in 2015, won an award for his role in a heroic surf rescue at Bethell’s Beach, after swimming out 300m in rough seas to help struggling swimmers. Now a student at Auckland Uni, he tells us what else he’s been up to.


You’re at the University of Auckland. What are you studying?
A conjoint degree in engineering (with honours, specialising in mechatronics) and commerce (majoring in finance and economics). I’m currently in my third of five years of fulltime study, graduating in 2019.

What was your favourite subject while at school?
Business Studies. It’s always been an area of interest for me. Our class had a fantastic teacher and we often enjoyed really good discussions and debates between each other. Basically it was a really fun and interesting environment in which we learned a lot as a class.

What was the highlight of your time at ACG Sunderland?
Probably the ski trip in my final year of high school. There hadn’t been a trip for a few years, so I asked Mr Villars if I could organise it with another student. It was a huge effort to plan, but it was an amazing feeling when we finally got there and had an absolutely amazing trip. It was really satisfying to be trusted with that level of responsibility, knowing that we were accountable for the success of the trip. It was an opportunity I would not have had at another school.

Other highlights include being selected for Head Boy and getting Top in the World in AS level Business Studies.

Tell us about your involvement in surf lifesaving
It’s my third season as a volunteer surf life guard at Bethells Beach. We patrol on the weekends on a rotation basis. It’s a family club with a really neat vibe. It’s as much about having fun and doing exciting things, such as cave swims, rock jumps and working together in practical rescue scenarios as it is about the lifesaving.

My role in the rescue was relatively small. There were four of us on the beach after patrol, waiting because we thought something might happen as it was a really rough day and there was still some people in the water.

Sure enough, there were six in a group which got caught in a rip. Two of the more experienced guards went in the IRB, but could only pick up one patient at a time as it was too rough, so I swam out with a rescue tube and just helped the last couple of guys stay afloat while waiting for them to be picked up.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
I’m interested in business strategy and would like to be involved in high level business management. I would also like to own and operate my own business. Currently I’m thinking that I would like to work in management consulting when I graduate and I’ve been taking part in the management consulting club at university.

James was a member of the Bethells Beach Surf Life Saving Club, which won BP Rescue of the Year in 2017. According to Surf Lifesaving New Zealand, the rescuers’ actions avoided a number of deaths in very difficult conditions.