Matt Hay, creator of an innovative therapy dog programme to support at-risk youth, joins Mana after more than two decades with the New Zealand Police.


Matt, who received an EPB (Evidence-Based Policing Award) in June for his therapy dog programme, brings a huge depth of knowledge and skills around working with complex, at-risk youth.


While serving as a Youth Aid officer in Hamilton two years ago, Matt came up with the idea of a “circuit breaker” programme, in partnership with Oranga Tamariki, for at-risk youth who were in care or protection services or in the Youth Justice process. Matt introduced two labradors – Lachie and Chip – to the force to help create behavioural change.


Matt worked alongside rangatahi in their own environments, using Lachie and Chip to break down barriers and build confidence with the youth. In doing so, Matt was recognised by the Police for delivering a programme of “the highest standard”, which replaced negative behaviours with positive experiences.


Mana CEO Lachlan Sloan said he was thrilled to have Matt join the team.


“Matt has shown incredible leadership in the care of at-risk youth and shown how thinking differently can lead to true breakthroughs.


“Matt is the type of person we welcome at Mana. We know how very real these challenges are, but we also know that with absolute commitment, wrap-around care, and the ability to think more widely about ways to support these youth, positive change can happen.”


Matt said he joined Mana because he had “absolute respect” for how its kaimahi worked with at-risk youth.


“Mana is an organisation with compassion and respect at its heart and the ability to mentor and care for our rangatahi in a way that navigates them toward better decision-making.


“Its programmes – including concepts underway, like Camp Mana – actively support young people through numerous issues, including serious past trauma. The kaupapa of Mana aligns closely with the therapy dog programme I began, which focuses on building connection, promoting empathy and showing respect for and to those around you. Doing this triggers powerful, important and healing conversations.


“I’m really proud to be a part of the Mana team and look forward to finding ways I can help – of course, along with my two dogs!”


About Matt Hay
Matt, 45, is a 23-year veteran of the police force. After joining the force in 2000, he spent time in community policing with the Armed Offenders’ Squad and as a Dog Handler and Youth Aid Officer, with extensive experience in the Youth Court and with the Community Living Trust. In 2021, he created a one-year therapy dog programme for at-risk rangatahi in partnership with Oranga Tamariki, for which he was awarded an Evidence-Based Policing Award.


Media contact
Irene Chapple
+ 27 403 1533


About Mana
Mana is a social enterprise that provides whānau-first, intensive support for complex, at-risk tamariki and rangatahi. Its Te Ao Māori values and intense, wraparound support influence young people to create meaningful change in their lives. Mana runs a number of programs, including care services, mentoring, transitional housing and transitional support.