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Small Town finding ways forward for their youth

Small Town finding ways forward for their youth

A New Way Forward For Turangi’s Youth

Small town New Zealand is a wonderful place to grow up but having ‘nothing to do’ outside of school hours is a problem that generations of youngsters have faced.

It seems Turangi may have found the answer.

In 2017 the town came together to see what could be done for local rangatahi (youth) and to find out exactly what their needs were.

“Really it was about getting some collaborative movement across our community to provide programmes for rangatahi,” explains local resident Trish Otimi.

“We wanted to concentrate on having activities in the community that were accessible to them, that were interesting to them, and that were about engaging them in the things they wanted to do.”

The Turangi Rangatahi Hub Charitable Trust was born and Trish is now chairperson. She and her fellow trustees all grew up in the town of 3000 people themselves, so understand the situation local youth are in.

“We remember asking for these things when we were in our teens. It’s nice 20 years later to be able to provide more opportunities for the next generation.”

Leading the Way

The hub’s activities to date have focussed on providing school holiday programmes. They’ve proven to be hugely popular and almost always over-subscribed. Trish says a unique model has been worked out allowing local families to give a koha rather than pay a set fee to ensure cost isn’t a barrier.

Volunteer co-ordinators work alongside a group of rangatahi leaders (aged 15-17) to plan each holiday programme. “They develop their own leadership skills and essentially design the programme that will happen in the next break.

“It has given those leaders such confidence. They started off three years ago and now they’re seniors at their schools. It’s been really wonderful to see their progression, their gain in confidence, the camaraderie amongst the leaders, the way they take charge and care for the younger rangatahi which is exactly what we wanted.”

Some leaders have gone onto seize further opportunities by attending Outward Bound, while others have been inspired to one day train as youth and social workers.

Plenty of Fun

Over 70 rangatahi attended January’s school holiday programme this year which had an outdoor education theme. Trips to Lake Rotopounamu, a farm visit, and a fishing workshop were just some of the activities on offer.


Rather than having its own base, the trust operates from a number of different locations including Turangi’s Senior Citizens Hall and Tongariro School’s wharekura. “Other times we go into the Turangi pools, utilise the climbing wall, go out to the trout hatchery or use the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits centre. We want the entire town to feel like their hub,” Trish explains.

As well as providing something to do, the holiday programmes provide a safe space where children from different local schools can meet each other and form friendships.

“We want to support rangatahi to build their resilience and connections with each other so they’re better able to manage any challenges and opportunities they may face in life. In the last three years we’ve had several youth suicides. So we’ve been thinking about how we can support our rangatahi in that prevention space and provide the resources they need.”

Expansion Plans

Despite having a strong team of 20+ volunteers, the organisation’s running costs are substantial. A large sum of money has been invested into developing the rangatahi leaders and this year’s operational costs are about $150,000.

Funding is sourced from a variety of council and iwi organisations including Turangi Community Board, Ngati Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board, Ngati Tuwharetoa Genesis Energy Committee and Ngati Tuwharetoa Mercury Development Group.

BayTrust is also supporting the hub’s endeavours with a $15,000 grant – some of which will be used to hire a new supervisor and launch a new after school care programme this year.

“We really don’t have an after school facility in Turangi so that’s something both rangatahi and whanau have asked us to have a look into. We’re keen to get OSCAR accreditation as soon as possible so that can get up and running.

“We also want to develop our youth volunteer workforce so we can do things like adopt a kaumatua or marae or community group where rangatahi can extend their leadership and volunteer support throughout the community. A new supervisor will help lead us and move our programme forward.”

Trish and her fellow trustees hope to eventually do themselves out of a job, as the rangatahi leaders grow into young adults and ideally take over the trust’s governance roles.

“We are very proud of them. For Turangi, it’s wonderful to see they have now a stronger platform from which they can springboard out to grab other opportunities.”