Department of Conservation Ranger, Chris Hankin shows prison staff and offenders how to place and set the trap mechanism.The first 50 of 200 traps being built by prisoners at Invercargill Prison have been delivered to the Department of Conservation as part of the agencies’ Good to Grow partnership.

The partnership between Corrections and Conservation is part of an ongoing commitment to utilise the offender workforce to make a difference for all New Zealanders.

“This is an important project for the men and one they are proud to be a part of,” says Invercargill Prison Manager, Daryl Tamati. “In addition to learning new skills, it provides an opportunity for the prisoners to contribute in a positive and practical way to the preservation of New Zealand’s precious flora and fauna.”

“Many of the men in prison are of Maori descent and to these men there is often a particularly special connection to protecting this taonga.”

The pest traps will be going to community groups in the Southern South Island for placement and will target rats, stoats and ferrets; with the aim to protecting a wide range of native species including kaka, kea, kiwi, weka, whio (blue duck), geckos and skinks.

Community trapping is an important part of the overall effort to protect our birds, according to DoC Ranger, Chris Hankin, and the contributions of traps through the Good to grow partnership are invaluable to this.

Made from tanalised timber to withstand the rigours of the harsh environment, each trap takes around an hour to complete.  The trap mechanisms are provided by Conservation.

The traps are calibrated for specific weights of pest and the prisoners have made up their own set of standard weights for the process.

Tom*, one of the prisoners working on the traps, is enjoying the opportunity to contribute to saving New Zealand’s native birds.

“It’s great to be doing something that helps the environment. I want to grow older knowing I have played a part in improving our land and the lives of our native birds,” he says.

Prison Industries Manager, Roger Leslie says this project, and others like it provide meaningful industry based training and employment in prison and the opportunity to transfer these skills and qualifications into the community for the benefit of the individual, their family and the community.

“Making the traps provides opportunities for them to think through a problem, follow a plan, and develop and use basic construction skills - all of which increase their chances of finding employment on release.”

Employment is a key focus for Corrections as this, coupled with accommodation, is shown to be a key factor in a person maintaining a crime free life on release. The traps are being made as part of the ambitious Predator Free 2050 programme. They are among 700 traps being built across 3 prisons this year destined for community groups and backyard trapping projects.