A schoolboy has delivered a “powerful” message to decision-makers after being chosen as the keynote speaker at a North-East environmental conference.

Ten-year-old Tristan Anderson – known as ‘Enviro-kid’ – was chosen to start this year’s Tees Nature Conference at Darlington Hippodrome.

And the youngster, from Sedgefield, received a rousing reception from hundreds of adults in the audience with his key message: “We all have to do more.”

Tristan, who has won environmental awards for using YouTube and an online magazine to promote the importance of nature, said: “My message is please play your part. Pick up litter, rewild your garden, let your grass grow, plant more flowers, build a bat-box, create a pond in your garden, make a log-pile for insects to thrive. We can all play our part.”

The conference, co-hosted by Tees Valley Nature Partnership and Your Tees Catchment Partnership, was aimed at shaping the future of nature and the environment across the Tees Valley.

It was attended by pre-eminent environmentalists, national agencies – including Natural England and the Environment Agency – Darlington MP Peter Gibson, Northumbrian Water, community groups, charities, trusts, and passionate individuals.

Rachel Murtagh, Nature Partnership Manager for Tees Valley Nature Partnership, said: “We thought it would send a powerful message to have a child delivering the keynote speech, and Tristan certainly struck a chord.

“What was really heartening was that his message set the tone and was endorsed by a range of expert speakers with huge experience.

“What we need to do now is build on the work that’s needed for nature recovery, and the climate crisis in the Tees Valley. We heard very clearly from delegates that we need senior decision-makers, including business leaders, to take this seriously, so that it becomes part of all areas of public life.

“We all need to be pushing more, and resourcing this more, and making sure that nature is high on the agenda.”

Timothy Crawshaw, Chair of Tees Valley Nature Partnership, added: “What resonated with me was the diversity of local projects with nature at their heart. Tristan showed us why we need to keep engaging with young people – and why the young need to be our teachers.”

Paul Black, Programme Manager for Discover Brightwater Landscape Partnership, added: “We have a golden opportunity to make major changes, but that opportunity won’t be there for very long, and if we don’t take it, the result will be a climate and biodiversity catastrophe.”

Darlington MP Peter Gibson called on people to engage with politicians about environmental challenges, saying: “MPs are often criticised for being out of touch but the only way we find out what’s going on is by people sharing their stories and issues with us.”

The conference was brought to a climax with poet Kirsten Luckins reciting a piece she’d written during the day, about the importance of nature, and ending with the line: “The prize is life.”