St Ayles Skiffs to be set up in Tauranga, New Zealand

In 2019, the Bay of Plenty Youth Development Trust opened the Tauranga Boxing Academy programme for at risk youth, a programme based on a model initially developed in Wellington, New Zealand. Board Chair Craig Nees recognised the need to provide local youth with opportunities to be engaged in activities that provide positive health and mental benefits, as well as develop important life skills.  He wanted, through the Academy, “to inspire youth to believe in themselves and achieve dreams they never thought possible”.

The St Ayles skiffs, donated to the Board by an old friend of Craig’s, Mike Mahoney, will be set up at the Kilum Park Boat Shed in Tauranga which is close to the Academy premise. The skiffs will provide an exciting outdoors option for youth to increase their confidence, in a region renowned for its water-based sports – sailing, surf-lifesaving, long distance swimming, outrigger canoes and dragon boating to name a few. Building and using the skiffs rewards time spent in the outdoor environment and also allows key skills to be learnt including teamwork, participation and comradeship, to name a few.

To date the Academy has been an outstanding success. From 12 starting members in July 2019,  the Academy now boasts over 70 registered members, with a further 70 or so joining through associated schools or other alternative education organisations. Numbers are set to grow even more in the post Covid era.


Members not only learn to get fit through boxing, but through being around sound role models to also learn important life skills. Head Coach Henry Fa’afili and assistant coaches begin each session by asking participants to focus on and discuss one of the core values of the organisation. These are expressed in both the Māori Language and English, and are returned to  throughout the whole session. The values are Whakaute (Respect), Manaakitanga (Kindness), Whakapono (Trust), Takohanga (Responsibility) and Manawaroa (Resilience). Members are expected to carry these values back with them to their homes, work and schools.

These values will also be at the heart of the new education-to-employment programme that is to be established from June 2020, using the Tauranga Boxing Academy premises. The programme, called Inspire, Believe, Achieve (IBA for short), is integrated with the Academy in a number of ways.

The heart of the IBA programme is an education-to-employment pathway focused on building connections and the resilience of at-risk youth subsequently, supporting them to find meaningful and sustained employment. Partnering with local employers who understand this vision is a key part of our programme.  Youth will engage in gym activities while being educated and up-skilled to become ‘work ready’ with pastoral support provided during the 13 week pre-employment programme, their work experience and also during the first six months while they are in employment.

As one of the first organisations to establish the skiffs, the Academy are proud to be able to help establish a tradition that joins them to a growing world-wide community.

We look forward to updating you on this story when ‘lockdown’ is lifted.

Two of the Skiffs – waiting to go to their new home at Kulim Park, Tauranga

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