Apiata effect takes hold

ACTION MAN: Corporal Willie Apiata will remain with the reserve defence forces.
ACTION MAN: Corporal Willie Apiata will remain with the reserve defence forces.

It's "a whole new ball game" at Papakura's High Wire Trust now that Corporal Willie Apiata's on board, trust chairman Calum Penrose says.

The Victoria Cross recipient announced last week he would leave the army to take over running the camp based at Awhitu Peninsula.

Apiata, who received the Victoria Cross for carrying an injured comrade to safety through gunfire in Afghanistan in 2004, will join a number of ex-SAS personnel already on the High Wire Trust staff.

''Having Willie will just be the icing on the cake,'' Penrose said.

Apiata, who will still be on call with the army reserves, said the decision to leave the military and take the High Wire job was not made lightly.

''I am very proud of my service with the New Zealand Defence Force and I am very grateful for all of the support I have received,'' he said.

And Penrose has been quick to sing the corporal's praises: ''Willie is a loveable guy, he's a real family guy, he's generous but you'll never take the army out of Willie.''

Getting Apiata on board was another step in the trust's mission to help at-risk youth. The young people are referred there through the Corrections and Justice Ministries, the police and local schools.

''After two or three weeks within the trust you'll be absolutely amazed at the turnaround with those young people,'' Apiata said.

''Their instructors have got them on a path, they've got some sort of direction they're going for and they want to know where they're going."

The trust has already seen a number of kids who dropped out of school at 14 or 15 achieve NCEA level one.

''If they go into a classroom they start acting up big time. Why? They're bored. They don't know where they fit within society," Apiata added.

''Get them up on the high ropes, out abseiling or kayaking. Something that's going to really challenge them - then we put them through the classes so they can get their NCEA.''

The trust also gets buy-in from prospective employers because it challenges the mindset that ''all young people want do is lie in bed in the morning, drag their sorry butts out of bed at about 10 o'clock and sit on a cell phone all day''.


- The trust was set up in memory of Papakura liquor magnate Michael Erceg.

- 1000 people between 8 and 18 years old go through the gates every month.

- The main facilities include a service academy and trade training as well as a high ropes course and ''endless gear'' for adventure and fitness activities.

- The consent process is under way for a large fitness complex on two acres of newly purchased land complete with accommodation.

Auckland Now