Thirteen young people died in Kawerau between 2010 and 2012. Two of the six schools there were closed in 2012 and 2013 because of declining rolls. In 2014 Kawerau was considered the poorest town in the country - it had the lowest average income and highest share of sole parents and beneficiaries. Through it all, the Kawerau Youth Care Centre Trust offered education, parenting, anti-bullying, counselling, and employment services. It also provided a recreation space, with everything from ping-pong to pool, or a piano to play. Now, the trust's presence has come to an abrupt end. Samantha Olley reports.
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A Bay of Plenty youth charity is in liquidation and owes at least $133,000 after its policies and practices were deemed "insufficient" by a Government-commissioned audit.
The Kawerau Youth Care Centre Trust had provided facilities and services to children and teens in the Kawerau and Whakatāne areas since 1993.
The trust's delayed invoices and failure to submit an annual return to the Charities Commission last year prompted the Ministry of Social Development to commission an audit.
Auditor Deloitte found "no ability in the trust to be able to turn the operations into a feasible operation" and "performance issues around insufficient financial policies and processes, governance practices and breaches of the trust deed".
The ministry promptly cancelled its contracts with the trust, as did the Department of Corrections, the Ministry of Education and Oranga Tamariki.
Most of these services have been contracted to new providers, but there is no longer a youth centre space in Kawerau.
The chief executive of another organisation not connected with Kawerau Youth Care Centre Trust said a youth facility was needed.
"There is definitely a demand for a youth facility in this community," chief executive of Tūwharetoa Ki Kawerau Health Education and Social Services Trust Chris Marjoribanks said.
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"I am not in the appropriate position to comment on the liquidation, I know there is a lot of sensitivity around that," he told the Rotorua Daily Post.
Kawerau district councillor and youth mentor Warwick Godfery is a former employee of Manna Services, which operated under the trust.
He said the community had lost "a vital service" as a result of the liquidation.
"Kawerau is a community with all the health and social hardship indicators, mostly affecting youth and families where quality health and social service provision is essential for positive community development to occur."
Liquidator Simon Rogan wrote in his first report in October that the trust appeared to have operated successfully for years.
"As funding had ceased the trust could no longer meet its ongoing financial obligations and was ultimately placed into liquidation."
He said the trust had about $133,000 estimated debt, taking into account its $25,000 in assets.
The 24 groups listed as being owed money included the Accident Compensation Corporation, 2degrees, Spark and the Inland Revenue Department, and locally Hammer Hardware Kawerau, New World Kawerau and Nova Energy in Whakatāne.
Rogan is now distributing any funds available to those owed money.
Long-term Kawerau Youth Care Centre trustee Matai Bennett declined to comment.
The trust was placed into liquidation under a High Court order on August 22.
Justice Mark Woolford said the trust had "no funding contracts and no other income".
He said the trust did not owe any rent for its former lease at the Kawerau Enterprise Agency building, but the trust's furniture was in storage being paid for with money left in the trust account.
Leading up to the audit last year, the Ministry of Social Development contracted the trust to provide services for young people not in employment, education or training, young people eligible for the youth benefit and or young parent financial support, but Wera Aotearoa Charitable Trust is now contracted instead.
In 2017 and in the months leading up to August 2018, the ministry paid the trust $130,918 in total service and contracts, general manager Kelvin Moffatt said.
Oranga Tamariki contracted the trust for "high-, medium- and low-intensity early intervention and prevention programmes", general manager of commissioning and market building Joe Fowler said.
"Kawerau youth and families were not left without service provision due to the closure."
He said the programmes were now delivered by the Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau and Tūmanako Hou trusts instead and were "seamlessly transferred".
The Ministry of Education contracted the trust to run truancy services and the Incredible Years Parent programme until July 2018.
Deputy secretary of business enablement and support Zoe Griffiths said the ministry paid $84,391.30 for the trust to deliver those programmes between 2015 and 2018, but Eastbay REAP and Positive Families had since been contracted.
A Corrections spokesman said the trust was contracted for $51,865 to run Tikanga Māori Motivational programmes between November 2016 and January this year.
"On notification from the Ministry of Social Development that they had suspended the trust's accreditation for non-compliance, Corrections immediately suspended all services. As contractually required, Corrections sent a letter of termination to the Board, giving 90 days notice, ending on January 27, 2019.
"We now have a contract with Waiariki Whānau Engagement Ltd based in Whakatāne, who cover these, and other programmes," he said.
The next liquidator's report is due by the end of February.