Prisoners working on stoat trapsWhat do predator traps, grebe rafts, translocation boxes, wētā motels and red tussock have in common?

They are just some of the conservation products created at Otago Correctional Facility for DOC and community groups in Otago and Southland.

The Good to Grow partnership between Corrections and DOC is providing opportunities for prisoners to develop skills that count toward trade qualifications and contribute significantly to the success of regional conservation projects.

The ‘Building Capacity to Boost Conservation’ project began in 2015 when Sue Streatfield approached the Otago Correctional Facility (OCF).

One and a half years on, trainees in the carpentry, engineering and horticulture programmes have been building (or growing) a range of conservation products.

This article showcases a selection of these products and highlights how working with other can really achieve more conservation.

300 DOC 150 and DOC 200 predator traps

The traps have been used by multiple community groups and Trusts throughout Southland and Otago to trap a range of predators, with one grateful recipient claiming last year that “Christmas had come early”.

20 bird translocation boxes

Last year, DOC Te Anau commissioned a prototype of a new lightweight translocation box to carry small native birds such as mohua and South Island robins from predator free islands to safe mainland breeding sites.

These intricate and labour intensive translocation boxes are beautifully constructed and demonstrate how offenders can support conservation of rare and endangered species.

40 portable fence panels

Takahē fondness for tussock can put considerable pressure on plants, particularly newly emerging and planted tussock at enclosed sanctuary sites.

Portable fencing gives tussock rest and rejuvenation and an opportunity to regenerate.

The 40 fence panels from OCF will be used at the takahē breeding site at Burwood and Punanga Manu o Te Anau/Te Anau Bird Sanctuary.

6 floating grebe rafts

Numbers of Australasian crested grebes have been declining in Otago and Southland due to introduced predators, habitat loss through wetlands drainage, and the establishment of hydro schemes.

The OCF completed six floating timber platforms and a community working bee saw them secured with 10 and 20 litre plastic drums for flotation and weed mat for traction and grip.

One resident pair of crested grebes has already taken the opportunity to nest on these much improved platforms which are designed to rise with lake levels and withstand the lake’s rough conditions.

40 weta motels

The award-winning Kids Restore the Kepler project sees local school and college children engaged in a range of activities to improve conservation in the Kepler Mountain range.

Trapping and monitoring are just some of the activities undertaken.

The 40 wētā motels made by OCF will be laid out along trap lines and monitored for use by wētā and other small critters.

30 on-site takahe transfer boxes

These customised boxes have been be purpose built for moving birds within sites (including islands and sanctuaries) and will be flown to different takahē breeding and holding sites across the country.

Eco-sourced red tussock

In February 2016, red tussock seed was collected and sent to OCF. They are growing the tussock for use in restoration trials in the Eglinton Valley and at the Burwood Takahē Centre.

A Prisons Perspective

Otago Corrections Facility prisoners and staff are very proud of the part they are playing to help safeguard New Zealand’s special flora and fauna.

“An important aspect of prison industries is to be engaged in activity that has a useful purpose for the community while learning employable skills,” says Assistant Prison Director Gill Brown.

“Local community and environmental projects are of particular interest to the offenders who can see the benefit they offer the community. It shows them that we can all make a difference, that their actions can make a difference.”

“This partnership ticks all the boxes. We are proudly part of the Otago community and if we can teach employable skills while contributing to important local projects like these, then everyone is happy.

The prisoners involved in this partnership are making a contribution to the community that they can be particularly proud of. The flow on effects of their work will be enjoyed for generations.”

How do the prisoners feel about their conservation products? Well...

"We might be inside but we can still do our bit.”

“Giving back to the community by protecting our wildlife is a good thing.”

“I wouldn’t want to be a stoat”

By Sue Streatfield, Partnerships Ranger