Community Works - April 2011
From the General Manager's Office
Welcome to the first issue of Community Works for 2011. As in previous years we hope to share with you many interesting and worthwhile projects involving our community work teams. These projects give offenders a chance to make reparation to their communities, which benefits New Zealand as a whole.
The quality of that contribution depends largely on the skills of our supervisors. We look for special qualities when we recruit supervisors as this is not a typical 9-5 job. It is a unique job for dedicated people. Each day presents them with different challenges so we need flexible staff who can work in all sorts of environments. Life experience and people skills can make all the difference.
Offenders can be manipulative so we require our supervisors to be streetwise, to know when they are being ‘sucked in’. On the other hand supervisors should be people who want to make a difference. It’s a plus when they have practical skills to assist us in some of the amazing projects happening every day round the country.
We are always looking for new and worthwhile projects so come and talk to us if you think we may be able to help your community. Our staff will be happy to discuss the options with you. The details of your local CPS Service Centre can be found in the White Pages under the Department of Corrections (under the blue government department pages).
Community Probation Services
Mountain Bike City Nelson
With the completion of Involution Track on the outskirts of Nelson in December mountain bikers and walkers now have nine kilometres of local tracks to choose from.
Nelson Mountain Bike Club President Chris Mildon led the project: “As a club, we couldn’t have done all the work on our own. We greatly appreciated the help of Don Kivell and the community work teams because it was very hard work, with steep terrain and dense bush.”
Community Work Supervisor Don has been involved with the creation of the mountain bike tracks since the start in 2008. He says that the latest tracks are located up Marsden Valley, about 2 km southeast from Nelson. “That’s the beauty of it and why the tracks are used so often. People just cycle out the door and onto the track. And being on public land means it is accessible all week at all hours, without the restrictions we generally have with working forestry areas.”
Chris explains how they created the trail: “I found the line I wanted to follow for the track, after working my way back and forth through the bush. Then cleared a corridor through it with a chainsaw and a machete, marking the actual line of the track with fencing pigtails placed every two to three metres. The team of offenders on community work sentences followed that line, digging and benching of the hill to create a trail of about a metre wide. It would take me a day to cut and mark 200 metres of trail this way. They would then take two full days of digging to form that same piece of trail.
“Time on the job would have equated to around 3,000 hours for offenders completing community work,” says Chris. “To put that in context, the top half of this track was built by machine (a council contractor) while we worked up from the bottom by hand. We linked up quite close to the middle, and the contractor cost us around $24,000.”
Before the project started there was only one main dirt road up to the top of the Barnicoat Ranges. Now there are different levels of tracks leading to beautiful views. “The new track provides an exciting intermediate mountain bike trail,” says Chris. “The upper levels of the track wind through matai and beech forest.”
“It is a beautiful track,” agrees Don. “And for the community work teams it’s so rewarding to see the tracks used!” “People rave about this trail,” says Chris. “It’s made to a very tight design standard (a recognised mountain bike specific international standard) and has worked out just right!”
Making Nelson a true mountain bike city means there is still work to do. Chris explains: “Stage Two of this project involves a major traverse from the top of the Barnicoat Walkway, across to a point about a third of the way down Involution. This is scheduled for roll-out this winter, and I’m hoping to run this one with community work teams again.
“Long term the potential up here is endless. A private community-based trust is investigating the feasibility of installing a chairlift on this hill, which would increase accessibility in a big way.”
Working with hapu in Canterbury
For centuries the area around Lake Ellesmere near Leeston (about 60 km south of Christchurch) was known as a kai area, allowing locals to supply travellers with food. Sadly the vast vegetable gardens all disappeared over the years, but at the local Taumutu Marae community work teams are helping bring the gardens back. The project will help re-establish and nurture traditional Maori vegetable gardens while also developing the mana of offenders on community work sentences by doing work that contributes to the community.
“The way in which mana is given to the offenders on this type of programme and the difference between this type of community work and our normal activities is the ‘tikanga’ aspect,” says Kaiwhakahaere Matiu Cheesman. “Tikanga or Maori protocols help to work on people in a holistic manner and using the ‘whare tapawha’ model strengthens all the areas of taha wairua (spirit), taha tinana (body), taha hinengaro (mind) and taha whanauwhanui (extended family).”
Driving the initiative are Matiu Cheesman, Chair of Corrections Christchurch Maori network, and Senior Community Work Supervisor Thomas Piahana. To get this project growing they developed a partnership with tangata whenua Ngati Ruahikihiki and Ngati Moki.
The land was blessed on 16 November 2010 and named Te Orarikitanga. Two months later the gardens have been created and the community work team has planted autumn vegetables, including potatoes and kamokamo (squash).
Under the guidance of Community Work Supervisor Reuben Gent the community work teams grow vegetables using traditional Maori methods. Reuben has effortlessly incorporated Tikanga and Te Reo into the daily routine at the gardens. Thomas says: “The offenders have not only developed their gardening skills but have also bought into the whole Tikanga experience.”
Ngati Ruahikihiki and Ngati Moki are leaving it up to Thomas’ discretion to know when and what to plant. “We use the traditional Maori moon calendar to guide us with gardening,” says Thomas. “The calendar’s been with me for many years, along with knowledge handed down by my tupuna (grandparents). Following Maori tradition we use horse manure as fertiliser and no spray. Crops are rotated to keep them healthy. And we will also grow plants that are used in Maori medicine.”
Other opportunities may spring from the Te Orarikitanga Gardens, including the Christchurch Men’s Prison nursery supplying plants and native shrubs, as well as development of gardens at other marae in the area.
Whare Tipuna Wheke
Community work teams have also been involved in the preparations leading up to the opening of the whare tipuna (ancestral house) of Te Hapu o Ngati Wheke in Rapaki.
Thomas says: “I co-ordinated this project with the Chair of the Hapu, Kopa Lee, to ensure we worked systematically and methodically to meet their expectations.
“Community work teams worked tirelessly to make last November’s opening a success. We cleared lots of manuka from Diamond Harbour and used the branches to construct a fence around the whare. It was very hard work – at times we had three to four community work teams working on site but it was rewarding when we saw the result (see photo).”
The hapu were thankful for the contribution of the offenders on community work sentences. “As you might imagine it was a busy and hectic time getting all the mahi done, but with the help of community work parties we made it. We appreciate the support they gave to this very important kaupapa,” Kopa says.
Both initiatives show how short term projects (Whare Tipuna Wheke) and long term projects (Taumutu Gardens) promote trust and a sense of community. This advances the concepts of whanaugatanga/manaakitanga and strengthens the vital links between the Department of Corrections and local hapu.
Waikanae river restoration
Thirty years of rubbish went into a couple of skips on the Waikanae Restoration Project. Now even more work has been done on the project and it has not gone unnoticed.
Kapiti community work teams have received thanks and a lot of positive feedback for their work on the Waikanae River Restoration Project which covers the sections of river between the Waikanae bridge and the estuary.
After the teams had cleared the rubbish they started on removing non-native trees, which were cut up for firewood and given to the Lions Foundation. The team then shifted their focus to preparing for the planting of hundreds of native trees and rebuilding a walking track – making a real difference to the area.
Fran Wilde, Chair of the Greater Wellington Regional Council, wrote to Community Probation Services following a council visit to the site to see the changes: “The benefit of this planting and restoration is clearly evident along both sides of the river banks – due (in no small part) to the input of your teams.”
Probation Officer Saili Collings says that members of the public passing by the area have also been appreciative of the work. “It has been a hard but rewarding project and the communitywork supervisors have been enthused about the difference the teams are making, which has rubbed off on the offenders.”
“It was especially great that we were able to dig the first 800 holes for the new trees to be planted by the Friends of Waikanae River. We’ve still got about 20 years of work going up the river and around the area – just imagine how beautiful it will look when it’s all done.”
Rotorua best again!
For the sixth time in ten years, Rotorua has won the prestigious Best City Award – and Community Work teams are credited for the part they played in keeping the city beautiful.
The winner was determined by online public voting and the award was presented in December 2010 by the Keep New Zealand Beautiful organisation.
Christine Findon, Co-ordinator of Keep Rotorua Beautiful for the Rotorua District Council, says she’s full of praise for the contribution of the community work teams.
“They are invaluable in their assistance,” says Christine. “They clean our streets, rain or shine,and we can really see the difference when they have been round. The supervisors are very co-operative and this prize is a huge reflection of all their help.”
Senior Community Work Supervisor Phil Murray is pleased with the praise. He says that the community work teams take pride in keeping their city’s streets, parks and lakes clean. “We go out maybe twice a week, more if necessary, to clean up. It’s not only good for the people of Rotorua to live in a neat city, but also good for the many tourists who visit us, and also for our offenders who are getting a sense of pride in the work they are doing in their communities.
“We do more than cleaning up though. We have a number of projects that are ongoing, such as looking after the mountain bike trails in the beautiful Whakarewarewa Forest, keeping playgrounds up-to-date and assisting at the local marae.”
Community work teams also helped Motueka gain the award for Best Town in 2010.
Painting up projects for Whangarei
Whangarei Community Work Service Manager Barbara Bailey could complete thousands of projects within her team through their de-tagging project for the council.
“Since May 2010 community work teams have been tackling graffiti in council parks and reserves,” says Barbara. “First, getting rid of the graffiti in local parks, one by one, then monitoring the parks to make sure they stay clean. Being out there seven days a week has made all the difference and we’ve had a lot of good feedback, from the council and the public.”
Senior Community Work Supervisor Eddie Kingi says the teams serving community work sentences get right into keeping ‘their’ parks clean. “They take great pride in it. We’ve also noticed that our work is deterring the taggers who aren’t so quick to come back when they figure out their tags are cleaned off the next day…”
Barbara says there is a lot of work around Whangarei still to do. “We are a big community work centre, with up to 80 offenders reporting for community work every day of the week. Now we are in ‘maintenance mode’ with all the parks and reserves. We will meet with council representatives to see if they have any other suitable projects for community work teams.
Other projects on the go in Whangarei include:
- dismantling old playground equipment at a local kindy to make way for fun and safe new equipment;
- de-tagging work on the railway corridor north to south of Whangarei City;
- repainting the interior of a multi-storey council car park;
- building rock walls on the beach in the Bream Bay area to prevent coastal erosion, clearing overgrown reserve land with more work to follow.
Barbara attended a Zonta meeting to talk about the work of CPS as part of a series of Corrections’ speaking engagements around the country. Zonta is an international organisation working to advance the status of women worldwide. One of the attendees at the meeting was amazed that the work she had watched progress on a council site had actually been undertaken by ‘criminals’ (her words). As she passed by the area she had commented to the men working on the project that they were doing a great job. The woman felt she now needed to reflect on her own perceptions of offenders who were actively making amends in the community.