Wednesday, 13 February 2019 - 9:05am

A win for Chelsea’s team

2 min read

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chelsea award

It costs about $100,000 to keep a person in prison for a year, but Chelsea Routhan can cut you a deal.

Youth who might otherwise be destined for jail can be kept out for just $1,500.

Chelsea runs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nelson-Tasman, a group pairing positive role models with young people who need caring adults in their lives.

Embedded within Tasman District Headquarters, the organisation is celebrating 20 years of success and recently took out a top local award.


While Chelsea runs the scheme full-time she is employed by Police, carrying the title Project Leader – Youth Development. She’s backed up by five staff.

Chelsea, who reports to Area Prevention Manager Senior Sergeant Scott Richardson, has been in the job for two years and loves it.

“It’s a no-brainer being based with Police,” she says. “There’s an absolute connection between us in terms of who needs our help and the families who come to the attention of Police.”

In one case, a boy from a family with a history of offending joined the programme aged 11. He grew up, did an apprenticeship and today at the age of 27 holds down a good job as a fitter and turner. The scheme kept him on the straight and narrow and he hasn’t gone the way of his relatives.

Chelsea says the adults who step up to offer their time are providing a lifeline to young people.

“Many of the families we work with don’t have vehicles, so you can imagine it’s quite a small world for some children and young adults.

“Ninety per cent of kids are from single-parent homes.

“Volunteers can open up that world by offering everything from good listening through to getting involved in sporty stuff.

“We find many of those volunteers are parents whose children have left home. But we also have success with people in their 20s and 30s coming forward.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters recently chalked up some milestones and wins. One triumph was being named best small business by Nelson-Tasman Chamber of Commerce in November 2018 - although it’s a not-for-profit operation.

And to mark its 20th anniversary, the initiative campaigned for 20 new men. It worked. They matched 35 boys with mentors, and have another 10 men ready to be trained or matched.

Inspector Ross Lienert of the National Prevention Centre has a long association with Big Brothers Big Sisters, from when he was based in Tasman District. Today, he has a seat on the national board.

“It’s important for Police to have good partnerships with evidence-based organisations,” says Ross. “Big Brothers Big Sisters has that evidence base from more than 100 years’ operating in the United States and Canada.

“The organisation has been shown to be particularly effective with young people in the areas of engagement, education and the reduction of anti-social attitudes.

"The mentoring programme is a great early intervention opportunity. Through our relationships with schools, Oranga Tamariki, and NGOs like Barnado’s, we can ensure that our young people and their families are receiving the support they need to thrive.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters operates in 13 places throughout New Zealand, and you can find out more about them here.