Prisoners from Christchurch Prison form the cornerstone of a new partnership between Corrections, NZ Peat and Frews Contracting.
Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) Southern Horticulture Manager Stu Whyte says the partnership will see prisoners blending and bagging organically certified compost and potting mix for the South Island horticultural market.
“We have a contract with NZ Peat to blend and bag various growing media including compost and potting mixes which is then distributed to NZ Peat’s customers.”
Stu says 10 minimum security prisoners are employed in the new compost blending and bagging operation where they are gaining a range of skills recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).
“The prisoners have the opportunity to gain loader and forklift driving licences. They are also able to gain NZQA credits while learning about plant processing and machine maintenance.”
The partnership has allowed NZ Peat to diversify into the organic produce market. Stu says NZ Peat had a long-term goal of having an organically certified product and Corrections was able to help achieve this goal through the Organic Certification Programme with AsureQuality.
AsureQuality’s National Field Services Operations Manager Paul Alexander says the company carries out annual audits at the Rolleston and Christchurch Men’s organic gardens.
“The operation at Christchurch Prison and now the NZ Peat product are both organically certified, and meet the internationally recognised AsureQuality standard.”
Managing Director of NZ Peat Bruce Smith says Corrections provided the best commercial solution to their needs.
“The staff are really responsive. They listened to what we needed and provided options to meet our market needs. The partnership allows us to be competitive in the organic market and has brought us a new certified organic product.”
Bruce says the labour only contract is benchmarked against NZ Peat’s other sites.
“People have this perception that just because someone has done something bad and ended up in prison that they will be a bad worker. We’re certainly finding that this isn’t the case.”
“I have confidence in the staff and systems at Corrections and look forward to further developing this partnership in the future.”
The bagging operation is also good news for Frews Contracting who are charged with collecting and selling spent mushroom compost, an all-year-round activity.
“We transport 600 truck and trailer loads of compost a year to a range of clients but some markets are seasonal, with spring being especially popular,” says Bulk Process and Recycling Manager for Frews Contracting, Tom Clark.
“We are glad to have Corrections as a customer as we are able to supply compost to them all-year-round. In recent years we have also been able to meet the supply needs of the organic gardens at Christchurch Men’s and Rolleston prisons.”
Research shows that prisoners who find meaningful employment on release are less likely to re-offend. The last prison census showed that 52 per cent of prisoners had no formal qualifications and only 45 per cent were in paid employment before going to prison.
CIE assess market trends to identify industries with skill shortages within the geographical areas that prisoners are likely to be released. CIE then provides training and employment opportunities within these types of sectors to upskill prisoners.
If you have a business opportunity that you believe CIE can help you with, please contact: cie.worktraining@ corrections.govt.nz.
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