Kaikohe's dream of a youth space is now reality after a string of youth crimes in the small town became a "catalyst for change".

The space officially opened on Monday and has been named Te Uma o Kona, after Te Kona, the mother of Ngapuhi leader Hone Heke, whose maternal nature provided counsel and comfort.

Te Uma o Te Kona manager Delwyn Rameka (centre) is officially welcomed into her new role by Te Kotahitanga E Mahi Kaha Trust chairwoman Aroha Tahere (right). Photo/Debbie Beadle
Te Uma o Te Kona manager Delwyn Rameka (centre) is officially welcomed into her new role by Te Kotahitanga E Mahi Kaha Trust chairwoman Aroha Tahere (right). Photo/Debbie Beadle

Aroha Tahere, chairwoman of Te Kotahitanga e Mahi Kaha Trust - a Kaikohe community organisation which will run the youth space, said these characteristics will be at the heart of the space.

"We want to provide a place of safety, a place of connection - utilising whakapapa, marae, wananga and things like that. It's been a dream of the communities for more than a decade," she said.

Advertisement

Ms Tahere said it was a series of high-profile youth crimes in Kaikohe which became the "catalyst for change" and the ultimate goal was that the youth space would give young people a place to go and, as a result, prevent youth crime.

In March half a dozen youths went into The Shed liquor store on Marino Court and ran out with 10 boxes of beer. Later that night a group of about 20 youths as young as 11 tried to break into the Mobil service station. CCTV footage showed them repeatedly kicking the doors and throwing rocks at the glass.

A string of youth crime, including this incident where youths tried to smash their way into the Kaikohe Mobil, became the catalyst for a youth space.
A string of youth crime, including this incident where youths tried to smash their way into the Kaikohe Mobil, became the catalyst for a youth space.

Four teenage boys who were on bail for allegedly trying to smash their way in to the service station were nabbed days later after a stolen car crashed into cows while fleeing from police.

Meanwhile, in July five children aged about 10 trashed three classrooms at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Kaikohe.

"It's brought the community together," said Ms Tahere. "It made our Wellington partners sit up and say 'Hey something is happening up there, you guys better get up there and find out what we can contribute to make Kaikohe a safer place'.''

Ms Tahere said a senior regional officer for both the Ministry of Primary Industries and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, who was from Northland, visited Kaikohe and met with iwi and the community.

"You had single organisations having a vision but it has been during this they've decided to come together. Our ultimate aim is to keep youth safe and in a space that's positive," she said.

The youth space has funding for 12 months from a range of organisations including Te Kotahitanga e Mahi Kaha Trust, Kaikohe Community and Youth Centre Trust, the Ngapuhi Asset Holding Company, the Northland Social Wellbeing Governance Group's Place Based Initiatives (Kainga Ora), and the Government's Regional Growth Programme.

When that funding runs out the trust will put in applications for more.

Ms Tahere described the space, which is for youth aged 12 to 24, as a "blank canvas".

She said the youth space so far received sponsorship for three table tennis tables, pool tables, a music recording studio, a dozen Chromebooks, a smart television, bean bags, art supplies, free wifi, and more.

"We haven't got a layout or design because we want the kids to be part of it," she said.

Ms Tahere said the trust had also received offers for registered teachers to tutor at the youth space. Programmes will start running at the space next week.

She said at this stage the space would be open from 3pm to 11pm or later, which aligns with what youth said they wanted.