The exhaustion was evident. With sweat pouring off them, 25 teenagers hauled a fire engine almost a kilometre last Friday afternoon from Bankwood Primary to Fairfield College.

The exercise capped off a day of gruelling tasks that saw the Fairfield College students carrying huge poles around town and stretchers over hilly terrain, kayaking and a mountain run. 'The longest day' was the culmination of an eight-week course run in conjunction with the police.

Cactus - Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit and Support - aims to develop youth leadership.

Fairfield College students were the first in Hamilton to take part in the programme which was developed in Wairoa in 2008 and has been implemented in schools throughout the country.


The eight-week programme saw students complete three, one-hour fitness sessions each week. They were expected to be at school by 6am for exercise sessions that become increasingly difficult as the weeks progressed.

Participants are monitored for attendance and behaviour at school and academic achievement. Their physical fitness is also measured at the beginning, middle and end of the programme, so students can gauge their progress.

Sergeant Craig Taylor, of the Fairfield/Enderley Neighbourhood Policing team, headed the programme. He said while physical challenges formed the core of the programme, Cactus also focused on team work, goal setting, leadership and discipline.

Cactus will run again at Fairfield College in term one next year.