Beyond the Beehive: Kawerau

I think people here do care
about politics and stuff, but that’s because half of the
people here are on benefits. So they need to hear about
what happens in government and all that kind of stuff. It took us about an hour to
drive from Tauranga to Kawerau. And frankly, the two places
couldn’t be more different. Kawerau used to
thrive as a mill town, until the paper machines
started being sold off overseas. Jobs were lost. Shops closed up. The town’s unemployment
rate is high. And as an area, the average
wage is lower than anywhere else in New Zealand. When Danielle Hayes won New
Zealand’s Next Top Model seven years ago, she told cameras she’d be dead or pregnant
if she’d stayed in Kawerau. That year and the next, there
were five youth suicides here. But Kawerau is still standing. And we’re here today to ask
those still living in the town and in the area what it’s like
and what the future may hold. I think it’s a really good
town, because it’s only got a population of 7000. So everyone knows each other. And it’s just a
really loving town. The town looks beautiful,
nice, and clean. I grew up in the
town, when it was most of the shops were
closed and everything, but it’s more lightened up now. We met up with Warwick Godfrey
and a few of his fellow youth workers. Warwick has mentored
young people in the town for
more than 20 years. Kawerau is a community that goes
up and down and up and down, but we’ve got a strong sense of
community spirit in this town, a very strong sense
of community oneness, and a good group of people
that are working very hard and for positive change. So I’m currently a youth mentor. And I deal with high risk kids. And yeah, I mentor them,
being like a big brother to them and to the
community, show them around. We do a lot of stuff, like
my mahi kai is probably one of my strongest things. It’s only 20 minutes
to the beach. So we go fishing. We’ll go to the Tarawera forest. It’s only like another
10, 20 minutes away, go eeling, watercress
picking, and just showing some new love to these
kids who have got none. What are the type of
issues that you find rangatahi around here face? I think the biggest one
from our recent survey has been job opportunities. So a lot of them are going
into training, but coming out and it’s not the right
sort of jobs or enough jobs to keep them occupied. Warwick then offered
to introduce us to the mayor of
Kawerau, who happened to be working in his butcher
shop across the road. Well, I think the
biggest issue is there’s hope to try and get a job. That’s our number one aim here,
to get everyone into a job. And it’s something that’s
not just with Kawerau. It’s right across the
country, you know, young people leaving
school and with no hope. And that’s what we
want to try and stop. It’s absolute bloody
tragedy, actually, right around the country. What are the types of
paths young people go down in terms of employment? Well, look that
is an issue here, because we have not got
those readily available jobs. And I mean, goodness gracious,
to go and clean toilets at the mill now, you just might
need a university degree, which is just absolutely ridiculous. But what my council
are looking at now, we going down another track. Rather than finding
people jobs, we’re trying to create jobs and bring
industry into the community. And so you know,
we’re staring down the barrel of probably 1000
jobs, if we can pull off a couple of big ones here. So that’s big time. Can I ask you what what’s – No, you can’t. I’d have to kill you. Top secret. Lee Barton runs
the Adventure Hub in Kawerau, which opened
earlier this year. The modern facility is
a place where many youth groups can stay
and go white water rafting on the Tarawera River. One of the saddest bits is
that well-educated and good young people, They
leave the region. So you lose that kind of level
of driving force in the youth area, but that
creates an opportunity for other young people. And everybody needs
in the Eastern Bay has been very aware of
that for a long time. And there’s lots of
efforts to try and increase the potential to keep young
people here and keep them with jobs. Yeah, there are opportunities,
but it’s very limiting, especially in small rural towns. There’s not a lot going on. So you sort of have to
look outside of the areas. Well, if you’re ain’t doing any
sports, you ain’t keeping busy. And I think life here
would be pretty hard. You lived around here very long? Yeah, most of my life. How do you find it? It’s pretty cool, just you know,
you know most the people around here. So it’s a nice little community. Can I ask what are your hopes? What are your
dreams, growing up? What would you like to do? Me, I want to go into the Army,
the New Zealand Defence Force. Can I ask why? Because I’ve always,
always wanted to go there. So yeah, and travel. I don’t think I would even move. I can’t imagine myself
living in a place where I don’t know everyone.


  1. Pay attention NZ, Kawerau is the rule not the exception. Edgecumbe, Te Teko, Opotiki, even Whakatane. I had to leave the country to get work. Breaks my heart to see the place I grew up get worse and worse every year.

  2. I lived in kawerau all my dam life and the only good thing video will what learn how to say kawerau boy my iwi from onepu ngati tuawharetoa and our mana can bring hope into our lives not some shit about kawerau I heard before it's done mate so who cares lets be free of thoughts and pray to God this town is road worthy so mate go home do your homework cause you don't shit about kawerau and what we been thru or believe only good thing in this video john good on you bro supporting our youth showing them your respect and what you can do wish I had that support growing up as a youth young ladies right it's a nice small town and true we know most of the people in kawerau someday there be less talk of kawerau cause they run out of ideas but do we care no see you fool's never

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