Community Works - August 2009
From the General Manager's Office
In the last financial year the number of new community work sentences was 40,934 compared to 35,577 in 2007-2008. The total annual throughput was higher as well; 64,150 in 2008-2009 – against 55,415 in the previous financial year.
Nearly half (44 per cent) of those serving a community-based sentence are Maori. So succeeding with Maori offenders remains one of our key priorities. Everyone should be very clear when looking at statistics that more than 95 per cent of Maori are not serving a sentence or order. We work together with many Maori iwi and organisations in our efforts to reduce re-offending among Maori.
We also work together with other organisations to improve public safety. New Zealand Police is one of them. So we are pleased to include an article in this issue that shows the appreciation of the Waitemata Police for the Waitakere West Service Centre. They talk about the work that offenders on community work do cleaning up the railway corridor and say they couldn’t do it without the help of the Waitakere City Council and Corrections.
This is just one example of the support CPPS provides to the community. If you know of projects in your area where community work parties could play a part, we would love to hear from you.
For more information please talk to staff at your nearest Probation Service Centre. Contact details can be found in the White Pages under the Department of Corrections (See C under the blue government department pages)
& Psychological Services
Waitakere combines forces
Service Manager Waitakere West Karl Bethell is rapt about the enhanced relationship with Waitemata Police. “It just makes things so much easier now we have more direct communication lines and attend each others’ meetings.”
Public safety has also benefited because situations get dealt with a lot quicker. An example of a project that shows the benefits of the improved relationship is the tackling of railway track tagging.
Service Manager Karl Bethell says, “One of the improvements is that the Police can now act immediately when we have an issue with an offender who is either classified as high risk or is on the Offender Warning Register (OWR). There is a zero tolerance towards these offenders as they present a high risk to the public.”
In April 2008 the cleaning of the rail corridor started. Karl says, “We have cleaned the rail corridor from Henderson to New Lynn and we’re still going strong. Quite often the court will order a tagger to be part of this group. Seeing how hard it is to get rid of their mess might just make a difference. In this project as in many projects we not only have a great relationship with the Police but also with the Waitakere Council.”
Gill Evans, Graffiti Vandalism Prevention Project Leader at the Waitakere City Council, is also pleased with the partnership. “The community work parties have done about 5km of cleaning by now. They are doing incredibly well. Every week I get a report on what they have done and I am forever sending ‘Thank-You’-letters in return.”
The work parties also check the part they’ve already cleared. Karl says, “When we see tagging there, we take a picture and send it through to the Tagging Officer of Henderson Police. They have a major tagging database so often can get onto the tagger directly.”
The clearing of the tagging takes place every Sunday as this is the quietest day for community work parties to be near the tracks. “Obviously there are safety issues,” says Karl. “Before supervisors can do this kind of work, they get trained in how to work safely near trains.”
“It’s all about gaining each other’s trust,” says Karl. And Karl has done just that according to the certificate of appreciation that Acting Area Commander Inspector Scott Webb presented him in April. It reads, “His efforts of networking and interaction between the two agencies have ensured a safer environment for all in the local Waitakere community. This is greatly appreciated by staff and management of the Waitakere Police.”
No stopping Red in Redwood Forest
Genesis is the name of the first mountain bike track built by Rotorua’s Community Work Supervisor Malcolm McHale (called Red or Whero in Maori by all who know him) and his teams of offenders.
And a beginning it was. Over 20 years Redwood Whakarewarewa Forest has developed into one of the most extensive mountain bike networks in the country and is well known worldwide.
“We greatly appreciate Red’s work in the forest,” says Dave Donaldson of Rotorua District Council.
“Of all the projects he could be doing in the community, we are grateful that he focuses all his energy on the Redwood Whakarewarewa Forest as it is of great recreational importance to us.
“The forest attracts a lot of visitors, as many as 225,000 per year according to a 2007 survey. These visitors spend about $10 million in Rotorua. So it’s awesome for Red to help us maintain and further improve the mountain bike tracks. And not only that, they also got rid of the invasion of weeds, such as honeysuckle, from the edge of the forest at Tarawera Road so now passers-by have an unblocked view of the magnificent Douglas firs.”
The Redwood Whakarewarewa Forest is 5,500ha and Red supervises work parties here four days a week. He knows the forest like the back of his hand and has gained a great knowledge of mountain biking and mountain bike tracks. “In the early days I didn’t have much direction,” Red says.
“We learnt through trial and error. Now mountain biking is the international rage and I get invited to workshops quite a lot as a local expert.”
On www.redwoods.co.nz you can find the following information: “These master crafted trails are an unbeatable blend of riding surfaces, topography and scenery. With around 90km of continually evolving trails, there is something to cater for all levels of rider, from beginner and family groups through to experts looking for extreme action.”
At the moment the community work team is working on a new track – a steep track of about 800m. Red says, “But because we are making lots of bends in the track, it is a grade 3. Otherwise it would certainly have qualified for the most difficult grade, that’s grade 5. We are also building a jump at the bottom of the track called Te Ara Puna or The Duck Pond. The carvings one offender made on some logs at the pond certainly add to the special atmosphere of the place.”
Councillor Dave Donaldson is also very pleased with the work the offenders have done to the pond that is halfway down Larch Road. “The pond was totally overgrown. Not only has Red’s team cleared all the blackberries that covered the area but they have also put down some benches.”
New service centre in Te Puke
A new service centre at Te Puke celebrated its new beginning with an Open Day on Wednesday 1 July. The new site is home to eleven probation officers and two senior community work supervisors.
An invitation was extended to key people in the local community, including service providers and community work sponsors. More than 40 people attended the celebration.
Service Manager Julie Sach says, “The open day gave us a great opportunity to invite our key stakeholders, such as the alcohol and drug treatment providers, iwi groups and Police. Staff were available to meet and greet members of our community and to give presentations about the work CPPS does.”
Community work now operates directly from Te Puke. With a muster of more than 100 offenders, the time was ripe for Te Puke to get its own service centre.
The community work supervisors from here take work parties out to projects on the eastern side of Tauranga – Papamoa and Te Puke.
“With the growth in the region it made sense to have a centre based in this area,” says Julie. “So we jumped at the opportunity when the group sharing the building with the probation officers announced that it was moving out,” says Service Manager Julie Sach.
Te Puke Service Centre
10 King Street
PO Box 765
Te Puke 3153
(07) 573 0630.
Keeping Thames warm
Community Work Supervisor Ben Gallogly of the community work centre in Thames came up with the idea of providing firewood from the timber mill in Thames, which gives untreated kiln dry offcuts away for free.
“The Thames/Coromandel area is huge,” says Service Manager Annette Busby. “There are quite a few old people who can’t afford firewood but luckily we also have many industries who like to do their bit to help.”
CPPS approached organisations such as the RSA and Hauraki Maori Trust Board who provided names of recipients.
Supervisor Buffon Edwards has chainsaw qualifications so she was able to chop the wood at the timber mill. In June at least 15 people could keep warm with the firewood delivered by community work teams, with more deliveries to follow.
Tidiness next to godliness
Community work parties are a regular sight on the grounds of Invercargill’s prominent St John’s Anglican Church. “They do a wonderful job,” says Neil Tapper, St John’s Maintenance Supervisor.
For the past ten years offenders on community work have been mowing the lawns, cutting the hedge, weeding, sweeping driveways and paths, pruning shrubs and raking up the thousands of leaves that fall from the mature sycamore trees. The inside of the church is also maintained by the offenders who vacuum, sweep and dust the pews weekly.
Neil says, “I can sincerely say we are very fortunate having community work parties do this work for us. The majority of our church members are elderly and we would never be able to keep things up without this help. We received a letter from the Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, congratulating us on our efforts to preserve this area for the enjoyment of future generations.
“We are in the central part of the city, right next door to the Civic Administration building. There is a great deal of public interest in the buildings and grounds. People doing the Heritage Walk come by regularly and many comment on the neat presentation of the grounds.”
Mary Napper is the Community Development Manager for the Invercargill City Council. She states that her office overlooks St John’s Church and grounds. “When I look out of my window I see well-groomed lawns and shrubs and hear birds singing in the trees.”
Veteran Community Work Supervisor Barry McDonald has been supervising work parties for 22 years. He says, “You are aware when working at St John’s Church that you are always under close public scrutiny. We have had nothing but favourable comments and the offenders seem to get a kick out of achieving such a satisfactory result.”
Revamp Nightcaps church
The photo on the right shows the make-over of another church in Otago. This one stands in Nightcaps, an hour’s drive from Invercargill.
The name Nightcaps is taken from the nearby Takitimu Mountains. As early settlers observed the caps of snow on the peaks they were reminded of the nightcaps worn in bed to keep their heads warm.
Supervisor Ross Evans and his work parties painted the wooden church. Community Board member Sue Samson was impressed with the make-over.
North Shore remembers the rules of the job
Senior Community Work Supervisor Liz Gates loves her work at North Shore Service Centre. (“Well, most of the time…”) She says it is even better after General Manager Katrina Casey’s ‘whistle-stop tour’.
Katrina’s area consultation meetings have really struck a chord with Liz who has been a community work supervisor for two and a half years and a senior for six months.
“I’m especially inspired by two things Katrina said: improving the communication with our colleagues from Probation and simply sticking to the rules,” says Liz.
North Shore Service Centre has about 900 offenders on community work sentences. “Because we see the offenders on a regular basis, community work supervisors are often the first to notice things are a bit off track.
“Every morning when we start the day we look for traces of drugs or alcohol in the offenders. If we suspect someone is under the influence, we will talk to him or her and, if relevant, discuss this with a probation officer.
“In her talk Katrina stated that community work isn’t going to succeed if we don’t deal with mental or health issues at the first sign. If we get probation officers involved at the start, they can deal with them a lot quicker and get the offender back on track, hopefully.”
The other bit of advice Katrina gave was to stick to the rules of the community work centre. Liz says, “This sounds easy and it is as long as you remain aware of it. Sticking to the rules is so important because the breaking of one small rule can lead to larger problems.
"For example, offenders aren’t allowed to use mobile phones while they are on community work. If you see someone breaking that rule, you can choose to ignore it because it doesn’t seem that big a deal.
“But the rule is there for a reason. The offender could very well be using his mobile phone to order takeaways of the legal or illegal kind. And then he might also just call a mate or two to come and help him sort out somebody in the work party who he doesn’t get along with. If you had just dealt with the mobile phone, the problem probably would not have escalated.”
Liz says that at the beginning of her employment with the Department of Corrections, community work staff seemed ‘out on a limb’ with the rest of the Department. “This has changed and I feel more information is being sought and taken by our colleagues, especially in the management of sentences, as encouraged by Katrina. This makes us feel we are more valuable members of CPPS.
“We are a great team, headed by Service Manager John Jessop. We have a genuine interest in helping offenders to complete their community work in the most professional manner.”