Camp for at-risk youths backed

CHE BAKE AND MARY-JO TOHILL
Last updated 05:00 22/06/2012

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The Maniototo parents of teenagers believed to have taken their own lives in the area in the past nine months have welcomed a police initiative.

David Cromb's son David-Jade, known as DJ, died in May.

In September 14-year-old Sade Topi is believed to have taken her own life, as did another young woman in May.

A fourth young person from the area, 20-year-old Cobie Stringer, was killed in a car crash in March.

Police announced yesterday they were taking four Maniototo teenagers, aged 14 to 16, on a week-long life skills programme at the Burnham Military Camp following the deaths.

The camp's focus was to create an environment where at-risk young people could experience and practise life skills in a challenging but safe and supportive environment.

Mr Cromb said it was the best idea he could think of for the young people in the community.

"My son was going to dedicate his life to the army... My son would have been going too," he said.

"Living in Ranfurly and the Maniototo you don't really get to see what's over the hills ... they're going to realise there is a real world out there and it's tough."

He was pleased the young people had the chance to see what it would be like to join the forces.

"It's a shame it's not more widespread," he said.

Tracey Tau, Sade's mother, said the police programme was what the youth of the area needed.

"There's been a lot of pussyfooting around the subject but I'm very pleased something is going on," Ms Tau said.

Senior Constable Steve Burke, of Ranfurly, and Central Otago youth aid officer Senior Constable Jacqui Lambeth, of Alexandra, will accompany the teenagers on the programme, which is being held with the support of Blue Light Central Lakes.

Maniototo Area School principal David Hunter said he thought the trip was a positive opportunity for the four young men who will take part.

"It's more of a leadership and future thinking course and I hope they make the most of the opportunity," Mr Hunter said.

He declined to comment further on the deaths.

Ms Lambeth said: "It's also a great opportunity for our Central Otago police to work in a preventative and positive way with our local youth.

"It's about providing youth with broadening experiences that will strengthen their skills to deal with whatever life throws at them."

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