Community Works - February 2008
From the General Manager's Office
Community work is a great way for offenders to give something back to the community, and with summer in full swing, there is no shortage of worthwhile projects for offenders to be involved in.
CPPS staff from all over the country are already very busy supervising offenders on everything from gardening and maintenance work at schools and marae, to helping protect our natural environment through work on wetland, reserves and preservation projects.
Once in a while offenders get the chance to be involved in something a bit out of the ordinary, such as the recent project to help the Ministry of Fisheries educate beach-goers about legal size and catch limits for paua. Offenders sentenced to community work for poaching paua were given priority for the project, further educating them about the implications of their offending.
Where possible, CPPS tries to match each offender’s skills to suitable projects to help develop their skills and work habits in preparation for future employment. Agency sponsorship is a great way of achieving this, as the offender is able to work one-on-one with a member of the community who can offer guidance and act as a positive role model.
An agency placement featured in this issue of Community Works matched a budding artist with a school needing a new mural on its grounds – a good example of how these placements can be a positive experience for offenders and community groups alike.
These small successes mean a lot to the hard-working CPPS staff members who manage these offenders on a daily basis, and the communities who ultimately benefit.
Community Probation & Psychological Services
Mural work a good match for offender
An offender’s short-term community work placement at a primary school in Christchurch has turned out to be a positive experience for everyone involved.
Glenmoor School principal Peter Mitchell is no stranger to working with community work offenders. In fact he has taken on a number of offenders as an agency sponsor over the years, and says he’s had his fair share of the good and the bad.
But he has been blown away by the artwork done at the school by Dean, who was sentenced to community work for minor traffic offences.
“Talking to him, I discovered he was a bit of an artist, and told him I had the perfect job for him – painting a mural by the entrance to the school,” says Peter. “He was enthusiastic about the job, and when I asked him how he felt about working with the kids, he was happy to give it a go.”
Over four long days, Dean, who works full-time as a sales representative, painted the mural on the 10 metre long wall with help from some of the kids. He found the experience positive and rewarding.
“When I was sentenced I decided that I wanted to use the hours to give something back to the community,” says Dean. “When I talked to the community work supervisor Makerita Anae-Fesola’i and she mentioned the school needed assistance I wanted to help.”
Peter says it has been the best outcome he has ever had from an agency placement, and he has had many good remarks on the mural from staff, parents and whanau.
“It’s been a brilliant experience. He worked very hard to get it done and I never had to chase him up. He was always waiting for me at the gate when I arrived in the morning.”
The mural is based on the natural world, and some of the 60 students who attend the school were given the chance to contribute. Peter says Dean worked well with them, even including worms and frogs for a special needs child who had a fascination for creepy crawlies.
“Dean can feel proud of his contribution – a real achievement. Everyone deserves a second chance, and I’m glad that this has turned out so well.”
Preservation project protects a piece of history in the deep South
A project involving community work offenders, the Department of Conservation and Kati Huirapa Runaka ki Puketeraki has seen efforts to protect and enhance the site of a historic pa (fortified village, known as Te Pa a Te Wera) dating from pre-European times. For a number of years offenders on community work sentences have been involved in the preservation of the area surrounding the pa on Huriawa (Karitane Peninsula), known for its deeply entrenched Southern Maori history.
The offenders have laid down gravelled walking tracks, removed weeds, re-established native plantings to combat erosion and replaced trees along the Waikouaiti River previously removed by dairy farmers.
They also regularly help to maintain the grounds of Puketeraki Marae, situated on a nearby hill.
The subject of a six-month siege in the 1750s, the pa is regarded as one of the few remaining examples of a classic pa design in the south. Today, terraces, earthworks and traces of house sites are all that remain of the original pa, and the spot is part of a heritage trail of interest to tourists, as well as holding special significance for local tangata whenua of Kai Tahu.
The reserve was returned by the Crown to the care of Kai Tahu as part of the historic Treaty of Waitangi settlement in 1998, and its upkeep is managed jointly by Kati Huirapa Runaka ki Puketeraki and the Department of Conservation, with a little help from CPPS.
Brendan Flack, who acts as the caretaker, has been very impressed with the work achieved by community work offenders.
“Without their help, the tracks wouldn’t be in the good condition that they’re in,” he says. “The supervisors certainly keep a rein on their enthusiasm.”
The preservation of the site is not only important to the many visitors who visit Huriawa to experience and appreciate its rich history. It is also important to many of the 300-odd residents of Karitane who have become enthusiastic users of the tracks.
“Given its history, the pa and surrounding area is important to the local community, and the planting of trees along the river bed has been great for the whitebait season. It’s definitely a worthwhile cause,” says Brendan.
Vandalised rugby league club makes a comeback
Treasured by rugby league fans and players, the Otara Rugby League Club has had a tough run with vandals – including an arson attack in 2006 and tagging throughout last year.
Down but not out, the club approached the Otara CPPS service centre to ask for help and club captain Willy Peace was delighted at the response.
Offenders on community work sentences threw themselves into the job, clearing out everything from the burnt-out cupboards and furniture, to the stove and kitchen sink!
Once the mess had been cleared, they started on the renovations; a rewarding experience for those with longer community work sentences as they got to see the project through from beginning to end.
“It was a hell of a mess, but they did a fantastic job,” says Willy. “The guys just kept coming back for more.”
“I realise they’re only doing their time but the outcome was so great for us because it means we can continue to do our good work with the community.”
The club tentatively opened again in August last year, and was promptly broken into – several times. A decision was made to demolish the unused building that hid the club from the road in the hope that making it more visible might deter further vandalism. This time the club committee didn’t have to think twice about who to ask for help.
Offenders were called in again and made short work of clearing away the demolition debris.
As many as 16 teams use the clubrooms so it’s very important to the local community, who have been very impressed with the work done.
“I can only speak highly of the workers,” says Willy, “and I would like to extend my thanks to probation officer Richard Liaw and supervisor Mike Gullery for approving our plans and getting the club back on its feet and ready for the 2008 season.”
Speedway spruce-up keeps fans coming back for more
Stockcar enthusiasts in Rotorua can better enjoy the spectator sport after hard work by offenders on community work sentences to improve and expand the local speedway.</<P>Offenders have been helping to maintain Paradise Valley Raceway since it opened in 1970. As well as building retaining walls out of old tyres and camouflaging them with native trees, offenders also regularly lay soil on the track, which is used for around 30 events every year.
The track’s popularity has prompted an expansion of the venue, particularly the parking area, to accommodate larger events. In the past year offenders have been clearing land and removing rubbish to make way for the new car park.
“It’s been a mighty job, but we’ve been more than happy with the work they have delivered,” says Rotorua Stockcar Club board member Ray Millar.
“We’re very grateful for their efforts.”
The car park was finished just in time for the peak summer season, and one of NZ Speedway’s premier events – the 2008 Superstock Championship in which 20 of New Zealand’s best took on six overseas competitors. Located just 20 minutes outside of the central city, Paradise Valley Raceway brings in thousands of dollars to the local economy with most patrons travelling from out of town to attend select events.
Some of the work completed, such as trench digging, can only be done by hand, which is why the offenders’ involvement was so important.
“A lot of the work the offenders do behind the scenes makes such a difference,” says Rotorua Stockcar club secretary Sonja Hickey.
Over the years the club has received many positive comments from the public, and was last year presented with an award from the local council as part of the Keep Rotorua Beautiful campaign. Paradise Valley Raceway also won the NZ Speedway’s Best Presented Track Award in May last year.
Offenders join the effort to protect paua stocks
A select group of offenders have recently served part of their community work sentences patrolling Hawke’s Bay’s northern beaches in an innovative effort to stop the taking of undersize paua.
Supervised by CPPS staff and local iwi representatives, the offenders helped educate the public about legal paua sizes and catch limits. They also helped distribute Ministry of Fisheries brochures and rulers to vehicles arriving at Waipatiki, Tangoio and Aropaoanui Beaches.
Believed to be the first programme of its kind in New Zealand, the scheme was the brainchild of Napier MP Chris Tremain who has been concerned about falling numbers of legally sized paua in recent years.
Thinking it might be a good project for offenders to participate in, Chris approached staff at the CPPS service centre in Napier, who quickly gave it the thumbs up. The Seafood Industry Council and Sensible Sentencing Trust also gave their full support.
Napier-based senior community work supervisor Stu McKenzie said offenders convicted of paua poaching were the first to be assigned to the scheme – an irony not lost on any of them.
“They donned the ‘Paua Lifeguard’ t-shirts made for them, reported for duty over four consecutive weekends and did a very good job. They weren’t there as enforcers – their role was to provide information and educate paua catchers, and hopefully learn something along the way.”
Initially intended as a trial, the project has been very successful, and Stu hopes to see others like it introduced nationwide.
“There really is no end to its potential.”