27 Mar 2017

Ngāpuhi, council challenged to stump up for Kaikohe teens

9:46 am on 27 March 2017

A Northland Māori leader and senior public servant is challenging Ngāpuhi and the local council to stump up for a youth centre in Kaikohe.

Deputy Director-General of Ministry of Primary Industries, Ben Dalton.

Ben Dalton: "One of the best things we could do right now is to establish a youth centre in the town". Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Ben Dalton has issued the call in response to major disorder in the town this month, in which groups of children took beer from a local liquor store and tried to kick in the glass doors of the local Mobil station.

Mr Dalton, deputy director of the Ministry for Primary Industries and head of the government's economic development programme in the north, said the boys who ran wild in the town were not about to disappear.

"The immediate response is to increase the number of police in the area - and that is necessary at this time.

"But I think one of the best things we could do right now is to establish a youth centre in the town."

CCTV footage from the Mobil station in Kaikohe

CCTV footage from the Mobil station in Kaikohe earlier this month. Photo: Supplied

Mr Dalton said it was obvious young people needed somewhere safe and supervised to congregate where they could be steered in positive directions.

He said a local training trust, Te Kotahitanga E Mahi Kaha, had already committed $50,000 to a youth centre and he would ask the Ngāpuhi runanga and the Far North District Council to contribute.

The Mobil service station, damaged in the disorder, is one of Ngāpuhi runanga's investment properties.

Mr Dalton said Ngāpuhi leaders were understandably focused on their Treaty settlement at the moment, but he'd like to see the runanga make a cash donation to helping the young, and mitigating destructive behaviour.

"On Tuesday I'll be meeting with the Ngāpuhi runanga, and I'll also be talking to the local mayor, John Carter.

"And then, should I be successful in garnering some cash out of those people, I'll then be talking to central government."

If there was local support for a youth centre, central government would consider a grant from regional development funds, Mr Dalton said.

"You can see from the response from the local community that people do care; that there are parents and community people who want to bring this thing under control and who do want the best for the young people.

"A number of those children were brought to the attention of the police by their families."

In the days after the rampage a Kaikohe mother took her two sons to police, and another young man was spoken to after a whānau member passed on his name.

Mr Dalton said training, learning and Maori land development programmes around Kaikohe were starting to pay off for unemployed youth but the younger teens urgently needed support.