Southern mayors are lobbying to save a programme described as a blueprint for youth employment schemes.
The Work'n It Out programme may have to shed most of its clients or even close as part of a Government overhaul of youth services.
The scheme covers the bottom half of the South Island, and contacts every school leaver in Otago and Southland.
Ministry of Social Development tender documents show funding for youth transition services is being narrowed from July to cover only 16- and 17-year-olds, and only those deemed at risk.
Mayors from South Canterbury to Southland have been lobbying the ministry to find some way of keeping the programme but say they have not succeeded yet.
Clutha district mayor Bryan Cadogan says the programme has helped get youth unemployment in South Otago down to single-figures and it would be devastating to lose it.
"They've actually put young kids lives back in order and back on track," said Mr Cadogan.
The mayor of Dunedin, Dave Cull, says that while the Goverment's plan is well-meaning, it won't do as good a job as the present programme.
Mr Cull says Work'n It Out deals with young people aged between 16 and 19 who are not in work or higher education - a wider age group than the proposed replacement.