A Far North hapu that was rocked by a couple of high-profile crimes has stepped up and taken responsibility for its young people.
The bashing of an 82-year-old Kerikeri man in September by hitchhikers, who stole his car, and the armed robbery of the Waipapa Superette last month, both involved young men from Rahiri Settlement, off State Highway 1 north of Okaihau, and Ngāti Toro hapu.
The incidents have prompted hapu members to organise a series of projects to keep their young people occupied, while also teaching them new skills.
Their first project was a clean-up of the popular Forest Pools picnic and swimming spot, where the ground had been churned up by hoons, the grass was overgrown and strewn with bottles, and someone had even dumped a car and set it alight.
More than 20 hapu members and a local farmer turned out last week to remove the wreck, mow the grass, collect litter and cut weeds.
Nichole Tau (22) wanted to prove it was possible to come together as a community and get things done.
"We're trying to show youth you don't need to go into a dairy and steal ... You can use your hands in other ways, to cut grass or pull weeds, and make our area look beautiful," she said.
Steve Tau said the clean-up would be part of an ongoing effort to look after the well-used Forest Pools area.
The next steps would include levelling the picnic area to make it suitable for a ride-on mower, erecting bollards to "stop idiots doing wheelies on the grass," installing concrete picnic tables, and replacing a muddy path to the river with steps.
It was easy to sit around and criticise the Department of Conservation or other people for not doing the job, but the hapu was taking ownership and doing it themselves, he said.
"The motivation is to keep the young generation together and get them into some mahi.
This is only a stepping stone to getting them into work," Mr Tau added. "We've got to tidy up our own backyard before we can talk to other people about their kids."
Older whanau members were getting the project started, but the intention was to hand it over to the younger generation.
Mita Harris, another hapu member, said those involved hoped to lead by example.
"A few of us came together after a series of crimes and said, 'We need to do something or this is going to get worse.' We formed a Ngati Toro Tribal Committee, threw some ideas around, now we're standing up and taking ownership of these kids and their actions," he said.
"We want a brighter future for our youth."
Some argued it would be better to wait until after the Treaty settlement, when the hapu might be better-resourced to tackle local problems, but "We're not going to wait. The Treaty process can run its course, but in the meantime we're going to get stuck in and do something," he added.
*The Forest Pools upgrade is an unfunded volunteer effort. Call Steve Tau on (021) 0825-9298 if you can help by donating materials.