CACTUS at Ōtaki College

23 CACTUS champions
23 CACTUS champions

Earlier that day, the students in 3 teams had endured a marathon test of stamina and endurance starting at Forest Lakes, culminating in a big log-carrying gut-buster from the Otaki Surf Club to the college.

CACTUS (Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit Support) a police initiative started in Hokitika in 1998, has spread through Aotearoa. It provides community-based support and personal development for school students from years 10-13. This is the first time in Otaki, and won’t be the last.

On the wettest evening of the year, we assembled in the Otaki College gymnasium to witness the end of the eight week CACTUS course. Proud parents, brother and sisters, teachers and friends witnessed 23 disciplined and enthusiastic students receive their awards.


A cast of stars

  • Brodhi Archibald
  • Sean Byers-Cook
  • Jamie Cook
  • Hendrix Doughty-Babbington
  • Claudia Graham
  • Timor Jopson-Caldwell
  • Tevita Kata
  • Ashleigh Lakomy
  • Erin McArley
  • Suayd McMeekin
    Receiving an award
    Receiving an award
  • Cameron Lafrentz
  • Rebecca Neill
  • Justice Pu’e
  • Tarah Ratai
  • Taara Rice
  • Lana Richardson
  • Hemaima Rikihana
  • Sean Squires
  • Nicholas Su
  • Rhyna Tawhara-Clode
  • Grace Teu
  • Zyre Van de Wiel-Milina
  • Hawea Winterburn

The CACTUS course runs for eight weeks, Monday, Wednesday & Friday starting at 6am. Lateness results in everyone doing 5 press-ups for every minute of lateness. Everyone learned the value of punctuality! Every day involved Drill, PT, fitness measurement, shower, breakfast and a motivational speaker.

At the Awards Ceremony we watched an eight minute video that encapsulated the eight week course. Errol Maffey’s professional production allowed us to see what the students had been through. Each student will receive a DVD of their experience to remind them of their course.

Three of the students reflected on how they had found the course.

Erin McArley
Erin McArley

‘It was Mum’s idea. I thought I’d better make something of it. Setting small goals helped me get through the journey. I enjoyed the speakers after breakfast. I learned about the wide range of careers that I hadn’t known about. I’m grateful to my family for the opportunity to experience CACTUS’. Erin McArley

Cameron Lafrentz
Cameron Lafrentz

‘Getting up at 5, at school at 6, three days a week, didn’t want to be late, because that meant pushups for all. I wanted to get fit, wanted to be pushed. When I leave school, I want to apply for the Army. The support from my parents was a big part of CACTUS. I enjoyed the experience very much’. Cameron Lafrentz

Jamie Cook
Jamie Cook

‘Waking up at 5 was a bit of a challenge. My body became adjusted to PT, I enjoyed the support both from the CACTUS team, and my parents. Eventually I began to enjoy the teamwork and the training. It opened my eyes to avenues that I didn’t know existed’. Jamie Cook

Otaki College’s Deputy Head Hamish Wood, reflected on the programme

Hamish Wood
Hamish Wood

‘Who would have thought that they could have been at school doing PE at 6am? I was impressed with the dedication and attitude of all the students, who all finished the course. CACTUS builds resilience, application and commitment, sets goals and teaches how to achieve them. Now the challenge is to use what they’ve learned. I’m sure they will.’

Inspector Sarah Stewart
Inspector Sarah Stewart

Police Inspector Sarah Stewart

The final speaker, Police Inspector Sarah Stewart congratulated the students on their incredible achievement in completing the programme. ‘Potential leaders will emerge, you have become great friends and a tight team, and you will remember in later life how it has bound you together.

Big thanks to Terry Moore and his Police team who gave up many hours to run the course. Thanks, too to New World, who provided the breakfasts to sustain the team, and to Errol Maffey who documented the CACTUS experience.

Twenty three Otaki College students (13 girls, 10 boys) will remember CACTUS as a positive life-changing experience.

CACTUS — The Longest day in pictures

Those who made it happen

  • Snr Constable Terry Moore — Otaki Police
  • Constable Callam Nikora — Otaki Police
  • Sergeant Slade Sturmey — Otaki Police
  • Fitness trainers Nikora Te Wiata & Joseph Te Wiata — House of Hope
  • Errol Maffey — Media man
  • Anne Hagan — Nutritionist

Sponsors and Supporters

  • Central PHO
  • New World Otaki
  • Marlan Trading
  • Hammer Hardware
  • Otaki Fire Brigade
  • Top Brand Shoe outlet
  • NIMLIN Productions

After Breakfast Guest Speakers (*ex Otaki College)

  • Staff Sergeant Leon Kingi*, NZ Army
  • Constable Shane Durston, Police Dog Handler
  • Paul Ferguson, Police Dive Squad
  • Joseph Te Wiata*, Body & Soul
  • Adam White, Paraparaumu Fire Brigade
  • Dr Lincoln Nicholls*, Orthapaedic surgeon
  • Oriwia Raureti* Te Wananga o Raukawa
  • Mereana Selby*, Te Wananga o Raukawa
  • Penny Gaylor, Otaki’s KCDC councillor
  • Michael Kainga & Leni Apisai, Hurricanes
  • Selica Winiata, NZ Police, Black Ferns
  • Kelly Chapman & Bronwyn Boele van Hensbroek,
  • Kapiti Youth Support


Top overall student, Lana Richardson receives her award from Central PHO sponsor Shona Urquart-Bevan. Sgt Slade Sturmey assists, Constable Terry Moore at the microphone
Top overall student, Lana Richardson receives her award from Central PHO sponsor Shona Urquart-Bevan. Sgt Slade Sturmey assists, Constable Terry Moore at the microphone
    • Top Drill award Justice Pu’e
    • Top PT award — Hemaima Rikihana
    • Student’s choice — Tevita Kata
    • Top Trainee — Lana Richardson