Community Works - November 2008
From the General Manager's Office
We regularly hear from sponsors and community groups thanking us for the work offenders do while serving a community work sentence.
We value those emails and phone calls because they represent positive feedback that we can give to offenders about their work and their contribution to the community. Hopefully this appreciation will help motivate offenders to remain offence-free once they have completed their community work sentence.
We try to find community work projects that assist community groups and communities more generally. Sometimes these can be very small and simple things, sometimes bigger and more complex. It doesn’t matter as we can assist in a very wide range of activities and projects.
This issue of Community Works outlines some of the initiatives we have recently been involved in. We have also highlighted a project where our work and that of offenders has been recognised. This is a long standing project at the Ngati Otara Marae.
Chairman Albert Vahaakolo recently wrote a thank you letter for the work done at the marae and ended his letter by saying he had no problem being a referee for the Department of Corrections. We appreciate his vote of confidence and that of many other community groups and agency sponsors.
So thank you for all your notes and phone calls and please ensure to advise us of any projects that you think offenders on community work can assist with as part of their responsibility to provide reparation to the community for their actions.
Community Probation & Psychological Services
Building partnerships at Ngati Otara Marae
“I have no problem recommending anyone to work with Corrections on community work projects,” says Ngati Otara Marae Chairman Albert Vahaakolo.
Up to 10 offenders at any one time have been helping out with the renovation at the marae over the last six years. Albert Vahaakolo praises their work in a letter to the Department. He says, “I have been chairman for three years now and I know we would not have been able to do any of the restoration work without help from Corrections. The manpower would have been too costly.”
There are two buildings on the marae: the wharekai (dining room) and the wharenui (meeting house). The wharekai at Otara, Auckland, originally came from Otahuhu. It was moved to where it now stands 30 years ago.
“Over all the years people have been doing the best they can to keep it functional with DIY-jobs,” says Senior Community Work Supervisor Greg Wipani.
The wharenui on the other hand was built 15 years ago and is starting to need some tender love and care as well. Renovation work on the wharenui has started recently, including the renovation of the rimu floor.
“We touch base with the marae every week. We have an excellent relationship,” says Greg.
Mile of wire
CPPS has developed a close relationship with the marae and there have been quite a few jobs done there. “Cutting the hip high grass was the first activity. We used machetes to get through it,” Greg recalls. “And after that it was all go: taking out ceilings, putting in windows, rebuilding floors, dismantling a porch, refitting doors. We even found a mile of wire in the ceiling among lots of other things,” says Greg.
Albert describes the work as a total makeover. “Working together with Greg and community work offenders is just fantastic,” he says. “The committee shares the same opinion. Greg just seems to select the right offenders for the right jobs. Whenever I see them at the marae they are getting on with their work. They are always right into it, whether it’s carpentry, painting, washing or counting cutlery.
“Another positive aspect for the offenders themselves is reconnecting with their Maori culture. The marae is actually a pan-tribal marae, all Maori are welcome here. It’s a place of reconnection and a starting point for finding out more about their culture. So we all get something out of this partnership.”
Blooming into spring
Spring is in full swing. Many parks and gardens have burst into bloom and community work parties are helping out, even planting trees in The Children’s Forest in Papakura. On this page are just a few of our activities.
Selmes Gardens in Blenheim
Thanks to labour provided by offenders on community work sentences, the New Zealand Society for the Intellectually Disabled (IHC) could start the Blenheim gardening season in style. Offenders completely revamped Selmes Road Garden Centre so IHC could start their rehabilitation project at the beginning of spring.
“When they asked for our help earlier in the year, things did look bad,” says Probation Officer Lesley Sweeney. “The garden centre was overgrown. Weeding, pruning and cleaning up was our main concern. The offenders did a really good job and worked hard to get it all finished by early spring.”
We made it just in time, much to IHC’s delight. They even thanked us in a public notice in the Marlborough Express.
The Children’s Forest in Papakura rises again
The Children’s Forest in Papakura has gained a new breath of life this spring. Offenders sentenced to community work planted 450 native trees to make it even more impressive. The council initiative for this wonderful project came in 1985.
“The Children’s Forest was designed to underline the sense of community that exists in the district,” says Papakura Council Communications Adviser Mark Baker. “It provides a special place to remember births in the area. Each year the council holds a tree planting day for families who want to mark the birth of children born in the district or born to Papakura residents in the previous year.”
In early spring Papakura community work parties planted more than 450 native trees. These plantings replaced trees that had failed to thrive or had been damaged in previous years. Each totara and kahikatea plant received two stakes to its side and hemp webbing to further protect it.
Kids at Elgin School grow their own veggies
About now the potatoes in the photo will have turned into magnificent Christmas gifts for pupils of Elgin School to give to their familes. The photo features enthusiastic children showing the ‘magic potatoes’ they planted in their individual garden plot.
The project started over the July school holidays when community work parties transformed an adventure playground at Gisborne’s Elgin School into a richly soiled vegetable garden. It took 45 offenders three weekends to complete the job.
“It’s an example of community work making a positive difference to the community,” says Senior Community Work Supervisor Stephney Grayndler-Hollis. “Offenders get a real sense of satisfaction from knowing they’re supporting such a worthwhile cause.”
Making a difference on the West Coast
“I came back from a hospital stay and the yard was spotless. Absolutely brilliant,” says John Ramsey who lives in Kumara on the West Coast. Offenders on community work sentences had helped out with work around his property as part of the West Coast Housing Project.
“Many properties in rural Kumara are sub-standard,” says Senior Community Work Supervisor Paul Watson. Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC) describes sub-standard houses on their website as unsafe dwellings where people may rely on open flames for light, heat or cooking. Houses may also lack basic services such as a fresh water supply and a sanitation system.
HNZC is improving the situation with the West Coast Housing Project. This project was set up three years ago to assist homeowners with upgrading their properties. This means there is a lot of building going on in Kumara.
Paul says, “A year ago we formed a relationship with HNZC to discuss how community work could assist. We welcomed helping out in the West Coast Housing Project. Offenders not only get the chance to pay reparation to the community but they also gain general building skills.”
New water tanks
One of the first activities for community work parties was delivering firewood to several homes in urgent need of this. Next on the agenda was collecting and removing building material rubbish and breaking up concrete water tanks. Work parties also removed the remains so new water tanks could be installed.
Resident John is certainly happy with the work done by offenders on community work. “They not only cleaned up the whole place for me,” he says. “There was also a pile of firewood waiting for me. I am still happily chewing away on it. It was such a good homecoming. The guys parked their van, jumped out and they just got right into it. Beautiful!”
Southern Tuesday Group going strong
The Tuesday Group in Timaru has been a remarkable success according to Timaru CPPS Service Manager Kevin Foley.
“Most of these people would have dropped out of ordinary work parties. But since this special group was set up six months ago there has not been a single breach.”
“The group was created to improve our responsiveness,” says Kevin. “We had discovered some of the barriers that could prevent people from complying with their sentence. And we had noticed there were certain offenders who fell between the cracks.
"Without wanting to put a label on them, you could say that these offenders need a special kind of management. They often are not able to work to the level expected of the usual offender and sometimes they can take an undue amount of the supervisor’s attention. In this respect I think Max Miller takes a big part of the credit in managing this group as he’s a great supervisor.”
Max stays cool under the praise. He says, “I just enjoy the group. It’s not them and me. It is us in this together and we have to get a job done.” Max used to be a farmer until a few months ago. While driving his tractor, he thought, “Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life?”
After seeing the Corrections’ advertisement he decided to lease the farm and give it a go. Max has not had any regrets. He also likes supervising two regular teams of offenders and says, “The main difference is that those offenders are more assertive. Those teams have their own demands.”
The ex-farmer thanks his down-to-earth attitude for the rapport he has built with the Tuesday Group. These offenders might get bullied in an ordinary group but nothing like that happens at the Tuesday Group. “We manage their starting and finishing times differently to other groups due to their special requirements. But they still complete the total amount of hours they are sentenced to.”
“Not having had one offender breach a sentence is fantastic,” Kevin says. “Mind you, Timaru is pretty small and we only have about 170 offenders on community work. So perhaps we are able to personalise our groups a bit more.”
Max adds that the jobs they select might have had a positive effect too: “We tend to go for regular jobs in a quiet environment. One of our projects is the maintenance of the Orari School grounds. We work at the school while it is closed so the working party does not have to be in the eye of the public.”
Max says that the working party treats the Orari School grounds as if it’s their own project. A note from Dave and Rhoda from Oakhaven Trust says it all. “Thank you for the hard work. The grounds look neat and tidy and you have given us a good start for spring.”
Gibbston River Trail well on the way
Gibbston, near Queenstown, is looking better every day with the help of offenders on a community work sentence. Susan Stevens, chair of the Gibbston Community Association, is very happy with the work they have been doing.
Offenders on community work sentences have cleared vegetation and rubbish along the highway, running through the centre of the small community. They have also nearly completed clearing the 8.5km Gibbston River Trail.
Gibbston is best known as the home of the original Kawarau bungy bridge and award winning Pinot Noir. The bridge is where the trail will finish or start, depending on your choice. The other end is located at Waitiri Creek Wines, just one of the region’s many vineyards. This is where the first 1.5 km of the trail was finished and opened to the public in 2007.
A-year-and-a-half ago Community Works reported on the project and the crew’s discovery of a stone hut while clearing the bush.
Susan says, “The first section of the trail is used every day by the public. We also created a rest area along the highway at the centre of Gibbston. ‘The boys’ helped create the rest area and continue to maintain it. It is pleasing to see people eating at one of the picnic tables or reading one of the information signs.”
The work parties have nearly finished clearing the remaining 7km of the Gibbston River Trail. In October they finished clearing the spur track that will connect the trail from the river to the car park at Peregrine Wines. This is near the centre of the river trail.
“We started building the car park at the bungy bridge trailhead in October as well,” says Susan. “We hope to finish building both the section behind Peregrine and the section near the bungy by the end of the year. Even though they don’t yet connect to each other or to the section at Waitiri Creek Wines, people can still use them because there is parking available at all three sections of the track.
“Because we will be turning the track over to the Department of Conservation for ongoing maintenance, they had to approve the trail alignment. We will also require an authorisation from New Zealand Historical Places Trust (HPT) before we can begin actual construction as the trail crosses a number of archaeological sites from the gold mining era.
"We’re hoping for a quick approval because we took HPT’s advice to bridge all of the archaeological sites. All going well, there will be nothing stopping people from checking out new sections of the track this summer.”