A symbol of Karl Goldsbury's new life hangs on the wall of his workplace.

It's a clock; a gift from a former prison guard at the Te Ao Mārama unit at Waikeria Prison where Goldsbury was an inmate until three months ago.

"The hands of the clock recognise time past, look to the future, but in the end all that matters is now," says Goldsbury, a former meth addict and convicted meth cook now helping to run a new home for troubled youth in Tauranga.

The six foot four patched gang member's meth-fuelled days were peppered with "crooked deals, manipulation and all sorts of mischief".

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Goldsbury's mischief led to an 11-year prison sentence for manufacturing methamphetamine and eventually to Waikeria Prison, where he told his story frankly in Fighting the Demon, NZME's feature-length documentary on New Zealand's methamphetamine crisis.

Granted an early release by the Parole Board three months ago, Goldsbury is not only determined to stay away from drugs, but wants to use his experience to help guide troubled youth who might otherwise follow the same path he did.

Karl Rodney Goldsbury Photo / Alan Gibson
Karl Rodney Goldsbury Photo / Alan Gibson

He will be Rangatahi Kaitiaki (youth guardian) - part of a programme running in a new Youth Justice Remand home in Tauranga's Pillans Point, supporting young offenders aged 14 to 18.

Goldsbury's former prison guard at Waikeria Prison, George Kahika, will also help run the programme as "house dad".

The home will open for its first residents in October.

The youth remand home is one of 12 being built across New Zealand, adding to four existing homes in Rotorua, Dunedin and Palmerston North.

This follows a $212m commitment by the Government towards building 16 remand homes over four years to house 100 young people going through the youth justice system - which from July this year includes 17-year-olds for the first time, expanding the youth justice system by 40 per cent.

It was in his late teenage years that Goldsbury, now 44, first got into low-level offending, escalating from growing cannabis to dealing it, then progressing to dealing and manufacturing meth on a large scale.

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When a big cook-up in a Katikati warehouse in 2012 went wrong causing a massive explosion, he was arrested for his third - and he says final stretch in prison.

Since being granted early release in May, Goldsbury has been living a quiet life at his parents' house in Maketu, a coastal settlement just outside Tauranga.

"I am in bed by eight. I don't socialise...the most exciting thing I do in the evening is sit and chat with the old man. I go to the gym in the morning and afternoon, and am just getting used to being reacquainted with my family. "

Karl Goldsbury pictured with his son Bille ,5, who was just a few weeks old when his father went to prison. Photo / Alan Gibson
Karl Goldsbury pictured with his son Bille ,5, who was just a few weeks old when his father went to prison. Photo / Alan Gibson

His wife Jess, who married him in prison, lives in Paengaroa separately so that the couple's son Bille, who was just 6 weeks old when Goldsbury went inside, can be gradually acquainted with him.

Bille had just turned 5 when his father was paroled. The couple are looking for a house together.

Jess, who works at Te Puke Golf Course, is drug and alcohol free and supporting Goldsbury on his drug-free future.

His two older children, Ocean and Kyree, from another relationship are now teenagers, aged 16 and 18.

"With my own kids, I am not going to be a hypocrite. I know they might look at me and think, 'well who are you to tell us anything?'

All I can do is tell my journey, what I have learned."

I used to always be an a***hole, and I didn't know the value of being good

It is a journey he will be sharing with young offenders at the remand house, who will follow a structured programme of rehabilitation but in a home-based setting.

The recently renovated house in a tree-lined street overlooks a golf course. In the lounge there are comfortable sofas and bean bags and a deck overlooking a large garden.

A large mural of the Bay of Plenty decorates the wall. The aim of the homely setting is to get offenders back on the right track at an early stage in offending, reducing the risk of them being institutionalised in a larger youth justice residence.

Though Goldsbury vows he will always be "brutally honest" with the young residents about what he did, he says in no way will it be glorified.

"I used to always be an a***hole, and I didn't know the value of being good and doing good things and what that can bring. I will share my story to show there is another way, to show what worked for me, and also what didn't work."

Goldsbury credits his own rehabilitation to his gaining understanding of and connection with his Māori culture which he learned at Te Ao Mārama - the Māori focus unit at Waikeria Prison.

Karl Goldsbury with his sons Bille, 5, Kyree, 18, Ocean, 16. Photo / Alan Gibson
Karl Goldsbury with his sons Bille, 5, Kyree, 18, Ocean, 16. Photo / Alan Gibson

Along with the unwavering support of his family - his wife Jess, who married him in prison, and his mother, Rotorua nurse Nicky - the unit helped Goldsbury reach a turning point that he had not achieved in his previous prison sentences.

He speaks highly of the unit and its staff, prison custody officer Andrew Bishop, and the Corrections staff George Kahika and Hinewirangi Kohu Morgan.

"With three prison stints, a long sentence, the patch, the drugs ... people judge you and talk shit about you but George had my back. He used to say 'why are you saying that about him, you don't even know the man'. It was humbling to see the way someone like that stood up for me, and it meant I wanted to stay on the right path because I didn't want to give anyone ammunition to say, 'see he is is a s***'."

He learned te reo and the principles of tikanga Māori - which he says helped him take ownership of what he had done.

He then completed a more intensive course with Hinewirangi Kohu Morgan, learning formal speech-making and waiata, which helped him further address his offending using Māori philosophies relating to mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

"Hine was tough ... always grumpy. I was a bit afraid of her. But we came to have great mutual respect. She is another person I never want to let down - I would be terrified to. At the end of the course I had to recite three karakia in Māori, and then explain to her what they meant to me. It was hard ... when I went to do it I asked her to turn her back I was so intimidated. I was pacing up and down. She was like - what are you pacing for?

At the end of it she gave me this greenstone, it was a special moment I will never forget and it is things like this I want to share with the young people, because connecting to who you are gives you pride. And when you have this pride, people believe in you. And when they believe in you, you don't want to do the bad things any more."

Another person backing Goldsbury is Tommy Kapai, chief executive of Bay of Plenty social agency Te Tuinga Whānau, which is also involved in the new Youth Justice Remand House. Goldsbury says he joined the agency with the support of Kapai.

"I like the way they do things according to Māori kaupapa, and it is a way of continuing on the path I learned at Te Ao Mārama."

Tuinga Whānau already runs Whare 4 Freedom in Tauranga, a transitional home for former adult inmates of Waikeria, and Kapai says the agency's approach of wrap-around practical support is the only real way to reduce the incarceration rate for Māori men, and youth offenders.

"It is those practical things, like providing them with a solid base, good people around them, support to learn things that not only help them integrate back into the community, but importantly give them pride in themselves, so they back themselves," he says.

Kapai believes incorporating the knowledge of people like Goldsbury into the programmes further reduces chances of reoffending,

"It is us who are learning from him, because hearing what turned him to his path of truth is inspiring. Everyone is sick of the war stories, we want to hear stories of hope."

Goldsbury has had significant input into the design of the programme at the new house, as has his former guard Kahika and his teacher Kohu Morgan.

Kapai says Te Tuinga Whānau was already adopting the philosophy behind the Government's recently announced Hokai Rangi initiative to reduce the rate of Māori imprisonment, which focuses on turning around prisoners' lives with the help of whānau and iwi.

With Māori representing 67 per cent of youth in jail, Kapai says reaching them at an early stage is crucial, and Goldsbury would be key in helping the agency use strategies that obviously worked at Te Ao Mārama prison unit.

The pair have become friends, sharing trips to the rugby and hot pools, as Goldsbury becomes used to his new freedom.

"Always at the agency, we treat people as people," says Kapai. "When you hongi someone you hongi them as a person, you don't look at what they have done, the patch, it is what they are doing now that matters."

"Karl has the two qualities I admire most in a friend - honesty and sobriety."

Karl Goldsbury pictured in the lounge of Tauranga's new youth remand house, with Tommy Kapai Wilson (LEFT), of social agency, Te Tuinga Whanau. Photo / Alan Gibson
Karl Goldsbury pictured in the lounge of Tauranga's new youth remand house, with Tommy Kapai Wilson (LEFT), of social agency, Te Tuinga Whanau. Photo / Alan Gibson

To mark his new role, Goldsbury was recently formally welcomed into Te Tuinga Whānau in a powhiri at Paparoa Marae in Te Puna, which Kahika and Kohu Morgan also attended.

The former drugs criminal made a full speech in te reo with tears in his eyes as he came on to the marae.

"It was emotional with all my family there, and to see George and Hine there, and Tommy, and all the people who have put themselves on the line for me."

At the marae, Goldsbury spoke again honestly about his offending and former life. Though still a patched member of a gang, who he described as one whānau, he said the patch he wears now is Te Tuinga Whānau.

"What I did was all me, I did it as a human being, not a gang member, I was up to mischief before I became a gang member. I don't like to look at is as a gang: to me it is a whānau, a hapu. It is what it is, it is who I am and it something I manage easily."

Goldsbury has been bringing some of the things he learned from George and Hine in prison to his "Maketu crew".

"Some of the younger fellas in the crew are now coming over to Maketu for te reo lessons. Already their whānau are seeing positive changes in them, as it is helping them working out who they are as whānau and as Māori men. It is teaching them good values and good principles and it is really cool to see them progress and to see these principles working in them. Really cool."

Karl Goldsbury. Photo / Alan Gibson
Karl Goldsbury. Photo / Alan Gibson

Goldsbury aims to continue to live by the Māori principles he learned in prison when he is working with youth, in particular, mahaki - showing humility when sharing knowledge and experiences to understand each other, and he kanohi kitea - becoming a trusted face in the community,

"The support of Jess, mum, my family and their loyalty to me made me realise I was someone worth loving and worth something. When you realise that and label things in Māori you find your place in the world - Tino Rangatiratanga.

"What I learned with all the people who helped me on my journey - manaaki - it is the principle of giving without wanting anything back. That is what I want to do. if you live by these principles you don't need drugs, you don't need money, you have everything you need."

The front page coverage of the explosion in Katikati. Image / NZME
The front page coverage of the explosion in Katikati. Image / NZME

At his parole hearing, Goldsbury made a formal apology in Māori to Judge Louis Bidois, who, releasing him early, reminded him that with his freedom came responsibility.

"You were a good prisoner," Bidois said. "The challenge for you now is to be a good man. You've got the support of your whānau, your iwi. Don't let them down."

At 44, Goldsbury is determined to stay on the right path.

"Drugs would ruin everything. It's no more bullshit for me. It's not too late to start a new life."