New rural rangatahi justice house opens near Rotorua

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Te Toa Matataki is a new youth community house near Rotorua has opened its doors. The initiative is a partnership between the Tuakiri Charitable Trust and the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki. 

A dream to provide youth justice rangatahi with a brighter future is finally a reality for Tuakiri Charitable Trust founder Chantelle Walker.

"I'm extremely excited that we're finally opened. Extremely proud as well as really really humbled."

During the week youth aged 14 - 17-years-old will learn life skills such as budgeting, communication and meal preparation.  Drug and alcohol education will be included, as well as fitness, Tikanga Māori and health education.  

"It feels a lot refreshing and yeah, trying to get your life back on track. It would be good to learn heaps of Māori, my pepehā and that," said one resident.

Oranga Tamariki Bay of Plenty regional manager Tayelva Petley says, "Once they've learnt who they are and where they come from, they're connected back to their whānau, their hapū and their iwi. They become what we call proud to be me."

The five bedroom home has been three years in the making. Walker credits the community support from Iwi Social Service, Maatua Whangai - Te Rōpū a Iwi o Te Arawa, for her success.

Walker says, "I think the way I've developed our programme is to build independence in the young people that we have coming through. It's important for our kids to know who they are and where they come from, also where they're going in the future."

Petley says, "Over the years we've struggled with options and pathways for our young people who offend, 78 percent of them are mokopuna Māori."

Set on 2.4 hectares in the Waikite Valley, Te Toa Matataki will employ nine staff, around the clock for the young people to talk to. On weekends they will learn to care for animals, maintain a garden and sharing kai with whānau.  

"You get to do a lot of cool things. It's really free you don't have many restrictions compared to other homes," said another youth justice resident.

All young people will also be enrolled with Correspondence School, with staff supervising their learning.