Offenders help repair fences on farms.Offenders in Balclutha are helping clear and repair farms hit by recent flooding.

Corrections’ Otago District Manager Raymond Clark says natural disasters and extreme weather events have a massive impact on local communities.

“Most communities just don’t have the workforce to deal quickly with the scale of the mess left by these extreme events,” he says.

“This is where Corrections can help. We can deploy our offender community work teams, a free labour force, to help communities get back on their feet.”

Recent weather events in Balclutha have left a huge amount of debris on fences, or completely wiped them out, which has hindered the containment of stock and winter feed requirements.

Offenders on community work sentences are clearing the fence lines to ensure paddocks are safe for the stock to access and allowing farmers to sort their damaged pastures.

Senior Community Work Supervisor Gaynor Bishop has two work parties  of up to 20 offenders working on Saturdays on various weather-battered farms in the area.

“This workforce can help our local farmers get up and running again. This has a positive impact on the farmers themselves, their families, their stock, the community and the local economy,” Gaynor says.

“We are loving helping out in our local community and knowing that we are making a big difference to our community when the going gets tough. Doing this work and contributing to flood recovery is a huge boost to the local Corrections team and to our offenders.”

Nick Abbott, of Federated Farmers, says he contacted Corrections asking for assistance following the wild weather and was hearted when the department was willing to help.

“The farmers involved have been very appreciative of the support. The work and effort put in by the Corrections team has been hugely helpful.”

Nick says the community work team also cleaned up around the community picnic area that had been flooded, including removing flood debris from around the newly planted trees in the area.

Community work offenders in the South Island have contributed to community recovery efforts for the earthquakes in Christchurch, Kaikoura, North Canterbury and Blenheim, as well as localised floods and wind damage.