Conservation Week (2 – 6 November 2015) ended on a high note with Corrections Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry signing a ‘Good to Grow’ partnership agreement on Friday, 6 November.
The agreement was signed at Maungauika/North Head in Devonport, Auckland, where offenders perform community work on the Department of Conservation (DoC)-run reserve as part of their sentences.
The collaboration between Corrections and Conservation will provide for the increased delivery of low-risk, high-volume work opportunities on Conservation sites for offenders on community-based sentences.
In terms of the agreement, rehabilitation and reintegration outcomes for offenders will improve, they have the chance to make reparations to the community, and learn new skills, which will equip offenders for future employment.
“We know that individuals who are employed are less likely to commit offences, less likely to be dependent on the state and, importantly, better able to look after themselves and their families. By increasing the skills of offenders and prisoners through conservation programmes, we will increase their chances of getting a job,” said Minister Lotu-liga.
He added that the agreement was another step forward towards achieving the Government’s goal of reducing reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017.
Under the ‘Good to Grow’ partnership, community work offenders help maintain DoC sites, upgrade and maintain tracks, and help to win the ‘War on Weeds’ across the country.
DoC has 14,529km of tracks, which require regular maintenance and clearance work, as well as local reserves close to communities, which need upkeep and small-scale improvement work like tree planting.
As part of the ‘War on Weeds’, DoC also aims to complete weed-control work across 150,000ha of land a year.
“The new partnership between our two departments will take these programmes nationwide and expand the range of work being done. We will achieve significant conservation gains by involving these offenders in maintenance and weed control,” said Ms Barry.
Conservation Minister Barry says more than 50 projects are being considered around the country, including prison horticultural courses.
Several prisons, including Christchurch, Rimutaka, Whanganui and Auckland, have in-house nurseries capable of cultivating a range of native plants.
In these nurseries, prisoners can raise native plants by using ecologically sourced seeds to support ecological restoration and riparian planting projects in the community.
Each year, Corrections delivers more than two million hours of community work labour to local projects throughout New Zealand.
This agreement creates an opportunity to deliver more of community work hours on significant projects in DoC areas.
DoC senior ranger Peter Smith, who has worked on another Auckland region Corrections and DoC project, says he has seen a positive effect on offenders.
“The work meant something to them, they loved being in the bush and some made inquiries about staying in work there.”
At present, the Department of Conservation delivers ‘Growsafe’ NCEA Level 3 across 11 prison sites.
At the same time, Corrections offers the National Certificate in Horticulture at Levels 1 to 4 across 14 prison sites.
In 2014-15, 223 National Certificates in Horticulture were gained by 161 prisoners.