An academy focusing on the construction, painting and decorating trades will begin providing training, education, and eventually employment for young people in Kaitaia early next year.

SWEETAS (Students Without Education, Employment – Training, Achieving, Succeeding), a partnership between Kaitaia-based He Korowai Trust and NorthTec, will accept four cohorts – two in building and construction, two in painting and decorating - when it launches in February. It was set up with a $2.2 million grant.

Trust chief executive Ricky Houghton said He Korowai was "rescuing" dilapidated houses so students could gain skills in a very practical way.

Once fully renovated the homes would be added to the trust's stock of emergency and affordable housing for local families in need.


Mr Houghton said the multi-agency initiative was the latest project in He Korowai's mission to improve the quality of life of whanau in the Far North.

"SWEETAS will start by offering skills, experience and stability to 17 to 24-year-olds here in the Far North, where they can study and train whilst staying connected to and supported by whanau.

"The build-up of trust and confidence within our youth will have the power to kick-start hope, interest and buy-in, not just within the community but from further afield, with the potential to improve the socio-economic prosperity of the Far North.

"It is incredibly important that Foundation North is sharing this vision with us. We hope their support will be a springboard for others to show faith and invest in this region."

Mr Houghton said he had been an "angry young man" once, but after being institutionalised at a young age and becoming a dad at 14 he promised himself he would make a difference in the world.

Earlier this year Foundation North granted the trust $2.2m towards setting up and operating SWEETAS. The grant was made through the foundation's Catalysts for Change programme, which supports innovative responses to major social issues in the region's communities.

"We are proud to make this significant grant to He Korowai Trust, with whom Foundation North has shared a long and successful relationship," chief executive Jennifer Gill said.

"It will be so exciting to see this innovative approach, which blends youth development, social enterprise, housing and economic prosperity, taking shape in the Far North."