Hapu¯ ‘takes own­er­ship’ of youth af­ter se­ries of crimes

Projects or­gan­ised to keep young peo­ple busy, teach them new skills

The Northern Advocate - - Local News - Peter de Graaf

"We’ve got to tidy up our own back­yard be­fore we can talk to other peo­ple about their kids." Hapu¯ mem­ber Steve Tau

ANorth­land hapu¯ rocked by a se­ries of high-pro­file crimes is step­ping up and tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for its youth and the area.

The bash­ing of an 82-year-old Kerik­eri man in Septem­ber by hitch­hik­ers who stole his car, and the armed rob­bery of Waipapa Su­perette last month both in­volved young men from Rahiri Set­tle­ment, off State High­way 1 near Okai­hau, and Nga¯ti Toro hapu¯.

The in­ci­dents have prompted hapu¯ mem­bers to pull to­gether and or­gan­ise a se­ries of projects to keep their young peo­ple oc­cu­pied and teach them new skills.

Their first pro­ject was a cleanup of a pop­u­lar pic­nic and swim­ming spot called For­est Pools, where the ground had been churned up by hoons, the grass was over­grown and strewn with bot­tles, and some­one had dumped a car and set it alight.

More than 20 hapu¯ mem­bers, plus a lo­cal farmer, turned out yesterday to re­move the wreck, mow the grass, col­lect litter and cut weeds.

Ni­c­hole Tau, 22, wanted to prove it was pos­si­ble to come to­gether as a com­mu­nity and get things done.

“We’re try­ing to show youth you don’t need to go in to a dairy and steal . . . you can use your hands in other ways, and make our area look beau­ti­ful.”

Hapu¯ mem­ber Steve Tau said yesterday’s clean-up would be part of an on­go­ing ef­fort to look af­ter the well-used swim­ming spot.

The next steps would in­clude lev­el­ling the pic­nic area to make it suit­able for a ride-on mower, erect­ing bol­lards to “stop id­iots do­ing wheel­ies on the grass”, in­stalling con­crete pic­nic ta­bles, and re­plac­ing a muddy path to the river with steps.

It was easy to sit around and crit­i­cise the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion or other peo­ple for not do­ing the job, but the hapu¯ was tak­ing own­er­ship and do­ing it them­selves.

“The mo­ti­va­tion is to keep the young gen­er­a­tion to­gether and get them into some mahi. This is only a step­ping stone to get­ting them into work,” Tau said.

“We’ve got to tidy up our own back­yard be­fore we can talk to other peo­ple about their kids.”

Tau said older wha¯nau mem­bers were get­ting the pro­ject started but the in­ten­tion was to hand it over to the younger gen­er­a­tion.

Mita Harris, an­other hapu¯ mem­ber, said those in­volved in the pro­ject hoped to lead by ex­am­ple.

“A few of us came to­gether af­ter a se­ries of crimes and said, ‘ We need to do some­thing or this is go­ing to get worse’. We formed a Nga¯ti Toro Tribal Com­mit­tee, threw some ideas around, now we’re stand­ing up and tak­ing own­er­ship of these kids and their ac­tions. We want a brighter fu­ture for our youth.”

Fu­ture projects could in­clude train­ing youth in pest control and a bike route link­ing with the Twin Coast Cy­cle Trail.

■ The For­est Pools up­grade is an un­funded vol­un­teer ef­fort. Call Steve Tau on 021 082 59298 if you can help by do­nat­ing ma­te­ri­als.

PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF

Tani Mane, 17, lends a hand dur­ing the For­est Pools clean-up.

PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF

Amy Tau, 17, and Mita Harris dig glass out of a bank where a car was dumped and set alight.

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