Pukenui-based TYG -Tohoraha Youth Group has a simple motto: "Play hard, work hard, gain respect". And they are doing just that.
Tohoraha (the name Kupe gave the rocky islet in Houhora Harbour) was formed in 2009 by local boys Max Bates, Griffin Paki, Liam Exley and Fred Matthews, who saw a real need for Pukenui youth to have something to do.
Griffin approached his mother Gayleen with the idea of forming a youth group, and the community called a meeting that led to the forming of a club that operates in a unique way. The young people have their own committee, which discusses ideas then goes to the "adult" committee, which helps turn those ideas into action.
"This particular youth group is run by the youth. They have their own committee, come up with their own ideas and present them to us, the adults," Gayleen said.
"One of the biggest things about the group is the support we receive from parents and the community. Without that support we would be nothing."
TYG began with 20 members and now has 44, from Te Hapua to Peria. The youngest member is just three years old, the oldest 19. Anyone is welcome to join, the only rule being that those under the age of 11 must be accompanied by a parent at all times.
The group, which is now in the process of applying to form a trust, is funded solely by its own efforts. A sausage sizzle was set up outside the Houhora Tavern to coincide with the Awanui Day bike ride to Cape Reinga, and a fundraising ride starting in Hikurangi took place on Saturday. The young people are involved in all aspects of the fundraising, which Gayleen said gave them a real feeling of ownership.
"It's really good to show these kids that this is what you need to do to achieve what you want. If you work for it, you can get it. It's theirs and that's why they love it so much," she said.
The group's activities also have a strong community service aspect, one such project being to collect firewood for local people in need.
"One member noted that it was cold for the elderly last year, and he saw a need," Gayleen added.
Henderson Logging had generously donated a truck for the group to collect the firewood.
Also on the agenda is a working bee for the Houhora Heads Fishing Club, where damage to a bank will be repaired by planting.
"This way it gets the youth coming in and protecting and looking after their community," Gayleen said, adding that she had noticed some huge changes in the young people involved.
"There is self-respect, I see the youth coming together as one and families coming together," she said.
Her 17-year-old daughter Larissa agreed.
"The youth group helps me spend more time with my dad," she said, "and I don't normally get along with my brothers but in the youth group we're a team. I also get to meet a lot of people from the community, and it's lots of fun."
A website is up and running (www.sportground.co.nz/tyg-boys), or contact secretary Shirley Jackson-Bradley on 409-8131 for further information or to join the group.