Te Waiariki Purea TrustYouth Affairs
Your Worship the Mayor, Chair of the Trust - Arapeta Tahana, ladies and gentlemen.
Good evening, and thank you for welcoming me here today to help celebrate ten years of great achievement.
Achievement not only for the Trust - but for all the young people whose lives you have managed to influence over the past ten years.
Your Chairman's report started with the Maori saying that before you know where you are going, you need to know where you came from.
The truth of that statement is self-evident.
It is vital that young people know about their whakapapa, where they came from. That they are comfortable with who they are and have a strong sense of self as they embark on their journey into the world of an adult.
In this regard, Conservation Corps is an excellent programme.
As you all know, the key to Conservation Corps is that it doesn't just deal with employment and work skills - it aims to develop the young person as a whole.
In my short time as Minister of Youth Affairs, I have already seen the benefit that young people gain from participating in the Corps. I have visited a couple of Corps at the start of their course, and mostly participants are fairly quiet, shy and reserved - they seem to lack self-confidence or the drive to make a difference for themselves.
However, when I go back to the Corps final presentation a few months later, it is amazing to see the transformation that has occurred - they are completely different people.
After having worked in a team, learnt some new skills, met new people and realised some of their potential, the participants come out of their shell and are looking forward to a positive future - either in work, training or education.
A couple of weeks ago I met with Tania Eden who runs a Conservation Corps in Auckland. She is providing a fantastic service for young people at risk, and like yourselves is producing excellent results.
I met an 18 year old guy there, who had left school half-way through the sixth form, with no job to go to and he had managed to get himself into a bit of trouble.
After only seven weeks on the Conservation Corps programme, he has managed to turn things around. Because he couldn't get a job, he believed that he didn't have any skills. Of course, he did. Everybody has skills, but sometimes all it takes is a bit of help to draw out those skills and instil the confidence required.
This young guy told me that now he feels positive about himself and is looking forward to work. He has got his sights firmly fixed on helping children through the Kiwisports programme.
Did you know that Conservation Corps is the most successful Government funded employment-type initiative?
Up to 80% of participants in last year's Corps programmes moved into education, training or work within six months of completing their course. That's quite an achievement.
It is those outcomes that Treasury concentrates on - and I agree that they're important - but so much happens in those young lives that can't be measured. We haven't yet worked out how to put numbers on self-esteem and communication skills.
The credit for success must go to the supervisors and those who organise the running of Conservation Corps. They work under tough conditions, and tight budgets to do a superb job.
Another reason why Conservation Corps is so successful - is that its a partnership between government, organisations such as yourself, and young people.
As a Government I believe we need to look at this kind of model for many of the other services that we provide. When we create a partnership with the community, then we are much more likely to deliver services that are relevant and of sufficient quality.
Many organisations complain about the short term nature of funding or contracts that they get from Government. I agree, it is a concern. We need to make it easier for organisations to tap into the money that is available. There is nothing worse than organisations having to spend more time and resources tracking down funding than attending to their core business. The Ministry of Youth Affairs has made some moves in this regard, and as you are aware, they are now in a position to offer longer term contracts to allow better planning and certainty.
I am pleased to note that the Te Waiariki Purea Trust has now had its contract extended to two years. I think this says a lot about the belief that the Government has in your capacity to make a difference for young people.
Clearly you have a strong foundation to build on, and I am glad to see that you have a very positive future ahead of you.
Looking to the future
Tomorrow, you will get to launch your new waka tete, "Te Aurere". I'm sorry that I can't be here tomorrow for the launch, but I wish you all the best and hope the day is a great success.
This craft will encourage the young people who use it to look more deeply at their cultural roots, and help them identify exactly who they are.
But, Te Aurere will not only be an exciting way to learn about the past, it is a vehicle to the future too because those who sail in Te Aurere will be able to participate in team work, environmental work and recreation activities - building on the things that you already provide through Conservation Corps.
Still, looking to the future, I have an exciting announcement to make today.
It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that the Trust has now been accredited by the Sports, Fitness and Recreation ITO as a provider of outdoor education.
I know that you have all put a lot of hard work into achieving this accreditation, and you deserve to be congratulated for your success.
Now, people who participate in Conservation Corps will be able to gain Unit Standards towards national qualifications. This is a great move forward. Exciting times are ahead.
Finally, I'd like to conclude by urging you to keep improving what you're doing. You've been in for the long haul - and that's what this country needs. People who are prepared to make a commitment to youth - prepared to put their time and energy in. I hope that we can continue to work together - and keep getting better at what we do.
So, congratulations, and enjoy your celebrations tonight and tomorrow when you launch Te Aurere.