Offenders gardeningPrisoners and community offenders across the country are helping New Zealanders ‘love our backyard’ – the theme for Conservation Week 2017.

Many prisons have in-house nurseries where prisoners raise native plants by using ecologically sourced seeds to support restoration and planting projects in the community.

Prisoners can also take part in horticulture studies and gain qualifications which can help them get a job on their release. Corrections offers the National Certificate in Horticulture from Levels 1 to 4 across 13 prison sites. In 2016 -17, 139 National Certificates in Horticulture were gained by 90 prisoners.

Last year also marked the first trial of ‘Growsafe’ certificates and training being offered to community offenders, resulting in 54 offenders on community sentences completing this certification.

As part of the horticulture course prisoners learn the botanical names for plants, plant identification, botany and biology, soil science and propagation. They also gain practical experience developing, growing and maintaining a large vegetable garden each. The produce is then donated back to local communities.

Offenders on community work are also involved with a range of conservation activities including making traps for pests, planting native trees, local community clean-ups, local site and track maintenance and weed control.

“Getting involved in these projects allows offenders to learn new skills equipping them for future employment and gives them the chance to make reparations to their community, ultimately helping their rehabilitation and reintegration,” says National Commissioner, Rachel Leota.

In November 2015, Corrections and the Department of Conservation (DOC) signed a memorandum of understanding for a “Good to Grow” initiative to provide labour for conservation projects.

Current partnership activities with DOC include; Sustainable Coastlines; Reconnecting Northland; Trees That Count and the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust.

“We’re proud to be working alongside DOC and helping our communities keep New Zealand clean and green,” says Rachel.

“We understand the importance of environmental sustainability and are committed to minimising our waste and using resources, including energy and water, more efficiently.”

Projects offenders have helped with this year have included;

  • In Auckland, prison nurseries and community work parties are providing nursery space and labour to help Auckland Council plant one million native trees and plants over three years as part of their Million Trees project.
  • Offenders in Waikato region and south Auckland have been working with Pūniu River Care, a Rangatahi Marae based initiative made up of the four marae along the Pūniu, on a restoration project to enhance the water quality and reinstate wetlands and see the wildlife return.
  • Community work crews in the Bay of Plenty have recently constructed 72 predator traps to help manage pests in the 1200 hectare forest and are now busy preparing a further 280 traps.
  • Prisoners at Tongariro helped the local DOC team make a colony of plaster decoy gulls, which were laid out on the Tongariro River delta to protect the black-billed gulls by encouraging them to nest there.
  • At Rimutaka Prison there is a Waste Reduction & Recycling Project including several hundred recycling bins, 50 compost bins built by prisoners, and 60 worm farms. The project earned them a place in the finals of this year’s Green Ribbon Awards.
  • Whanganui prisoners have been involved in building projects for DOC as part of their building and construction training. They have built a hut for DOC to replace the existing one at Teike Kainga; dog kennels for back country huts & picnic tables for DOC picnic areas.
  • Prisoners at Otago Corrections Facility and community groups in Otago and Southland have helped make 300 predator traps, 6 floating grebe rafts, 30 translocation boxes, 40 wētā motels and grow eco-sourced red tussock for the Southland region.
  • Offenders on community work in Canterbury have been supporting the rejuvenation the river and local community spaces in the Groynes/Otaukaikino area.