Toll Kaitaia's trucks are washed every Saturday, rain, hail or shine, but as of August 30 there will only be one small truck left to wash, and a pathway to a lifetime of employment for some young Kaitaia folk will be closed.
Kaitaia branch manager Bob Larkins said the company's loss of its contract with Juken NZ would have a significant ripple effect. For one thing it would no longer be spending up to $8000 a week in the town on tyres. And it would render the young truck washers redundant.
The service had cost Toll a couple of thousand dollars a week, but for many the real value was in the opportunities it created.
"For some of these young people it could be the difference between leaving school as a worker and ending up on the street," Mr Larkins said.
"It's been a pathway for them. Some have even got their Class 5 driver's licence, all paid for by Toll. There's a huge shortage of drivers all around the country. Once they've got their licence they could drive anywhere in the world."
The truck washing routine dates back to 2015, when the Far North REAP Be the Change Youth (BTC) crew set out to find ways of sustaining positive youth activities in Te Hiku o te Hiku.
Tonya Pene (REAP) said the opportunity to wash the trucks provided the ideal solution, REAP taking care of administration, while Toll paid the wages. A Class 5 licensed supervisor was hired to move the trucks on and off the wash pad, and to oversee the washing.
Initially BTC washed the trucks alongside other local youth groups who were fundraising for events, uniforms and travel, from sport to dance, the Shine on Kaitaia Christmas parade and the senior cabaret at Kaitaia College. BTC members were paid as contractors, with surplus income going towards annual Youth Week events.
BTC came to an end in 2016, but REAP and Toll Kaitaia continued with the initiative, rostering contracted individuals aged 15 to 24. And Ms Pene agreed with Mr Larkins that the benefits were not only financial.
"It was so valuable in growing their skills," she said. "The initiative gave them experience in work ethics, time management, team work, health and safety, leadership skills, communication and networking. Far North REAP also offered other wraparound services, such as CV writing, obtaining a driver's licence, applying for identification documents and IRD numbers, and opening bank accounts. Remaining funds were distributed to youth groups, which could apply for up to $500 for their initiatives."
That would come to an end on August 30.
"We thank all our youth, supervisors, Far North REAP and Toll Kaitaia staff for their support throughout this four-year initiative," she added. "Who would ever have thought after our first week of washing in torrential rain that it would last that long?"