Community Works - June 2008
From the General Manager's Office
It's always good to hear that an offender serving a Community Work sentence has found a job or work experience as a result of their sentence.
In many cases Community Work provides exposure to skills that might help secure employment for offenders while also providing benefit to community groups who would otherwise not be able to complete many important projects.
Recently in Kawakawa an offender assigned to a train restoration project worked so well during his Community Work the trust offered him six months paid employment.
When that ended, he chose to stay on as a volunteer.
Many in the Kawakawa community appreciate that the man in question served his sentence through work on one of the town's most important tourist attractions.
That's the purpose of Community Work: to ensure offenders make reparation through the work they do in their community.
Community Work can be done throughout the community and can involve painting, gardening, building, graffiti cleaning, restoration, recycling, and more.
Towns, cities, rural areas, voluntary groups, charities, schools, churches and marae throughout New Zealand benefit hugely from Community Work assistance but other organisations may not know how to access this valuable resource.
To help people do so we have a story this month titled Community Work ? what is it and how can organisations benefit? The article explains application criteria and what assistance may be able to be provided by offenders on Community Work.
If you know of other groups whose projects may be eligible for Community Work assistance, we encourage you to talk to staff at your nearest Probation Service Centre.
Community Probation & Psychological Services
Mudslide project a big hit in Opotiki
What could be more fun than hurtling down a 130 metre mudslide?
Very little, according to the 10,000 people a year lucky enough to do it in Opotiki thanks to the efforts of community work offenders serving sentences in the district.
For the past two summers local residents and visitors to the area have been heading to a nearby farm to plough themselves into mud, glorious mud, in what has become the highlight of the Opotiki District Council's six-week, summertime "Fun Unplugged" programme.
The Opotiki Coast Mega Mudslide is one of the best known projects undertaken by Opotiki offenders serving Community Work sentences.
The project began two years ago with an earth-moving machine digging out a deep channel running the length of the hill.
Opotiki Probation Officer Paki (Graeme) Riesterer says from then on offenders assigned to the project carted in trailer
loads of mud which they plastered and compacted on the channel to make it slippery while also ensuring it would be safe for all ages.
The mudslide sits on private land gifted by a farmer to the Opotiki District Council for "Fun Unplugged" - a summertime programme designed to entertain and challenge in equal measure.
The mudslide has been an ambitious project that included landscaping and tidying up work in and around the site.
Offenders have also assisted with painting a storage shed, building a fence and cutting steps and tracks up and down the hill.
Opotiki District Council Corporate Services Manager Donna Adlam says the assistance provided by the Community Work scheme has been valuable.
"It's a project well loved by the community and everyone who has worked on it has really got into the spirit of it," says Donna.
"Offenders assigned to the mudslide see people having fun and they're proud of the fact they've contributed to that.
"We're delighted that Community Work supervisors in the area have indicated they will continue to provide workers to maintain the site. It's hard to find volunteers on a long-term basis, and access to the Corrections' workers means we can keep this wonderful activity going for the people of Opotiki."
What is Community Work and how can organisations benefit?
Community Work is a community-based sentence which requires offenders to do unpaid work in the community to make reparation for the offence(s) they have committed.
The sentence gives offenders an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and learn new skills and work habits.
Each year offenders on Community Work provide at least two million hours of free labour to their local communities. This year we expect 34,000 new sentences of Community Work to commence. The average number of sentences on any given day is around 22,762.
Offenders can be sentenced to up to 200 hours to be completed in 12 months, or up to 400 hours to be completed in 24 months.
Offenders must complete 100 hours every 6 months.
Suitable projects for Community Workers include those sponsored by local councils, government agencies, voluntary organisations, marae organisations, sports groups and other community groups.
Where possible, depending on the projects available, staff try to match the tasks undertaken by the offender with their skills and capabilities or to directly repair damage caused by their offending.
An offender with artistic skills may be allocated a mural project if it's available, while an offender who has been sentenced for tagging may be tasked with cleaning graffiti in a local park.
The wide variety of tasks that can be considered for Community Work assistance is reflected in the stories contained within this publication.
Many organisations rely on dedicated volunteers to complete projects that will benefit their local community.
The Community Work sentence can provide people and resources to help such organisations achieve their goals faster.
Community work can be provided almost anywhere within a community from parks and reserves to schools, marae and churches. It can involve painting, gardening, building, graffiti cleaning, restoration and recycling just to name a few.
Community Work sentences are managed by Corrections' Community Probation & Psychological Services (CPPS) which has around 150 sites across the country.
Organisations that successfully apply for Community Work assistance have the choice of using one or more work parties of offenders supervised by a Community Work Superviser provided by CPPS, or may instead have a suitable individual assigned to help them who the organisation itself supervises.
The Department of Corrections is always interested in considering new projects to ensure the whole community can benefit from this valuable resource.
If you are aware of other organisations that could use this assistance or you would like to expand your own organisation's involvement, please visit http://www.corrections.govt.nz/public/communityassistance/ for more information.
- To contact Community Probation & Psychological Services, look under C for Corrections in the Government listings of the Telecom White Pages. Or visit: www.corrections.govt.nz
Turning bush into a home
About two years ago, Community Work Party Supervisor Lance Te Patu found it hard to believe a house was going to be built on a steep, bush covered section in Porirua.
But 18 months later, Joe and Donna Munro and their six children will move into a brand new home thanks to the efforts of close to 1,000 offenders on Community Work sentences.
The project was part of the work of Habitat For Humanity - an international non-profit group that helps build houses for families that might otherwise struggle to get into their own home.
Community Work parties have been involved in building 10 such houses in the last 10 years in Porirua.
"This house for the Munros has been by far the most challenging build, with the steep slopes, dense bush and rubbish that had been dumped on the section," Lance says.
"Our first job was to remove the rubbish and 30 trailer loads later, we could begin on clearing the bush, which was a huge task. Bushes and trees had to be cut down and tree roots dug out by hand. It took six weeks to remove one especially tough root system alone."
Only after retaining walls were built using old tires could construction actually begin.
The Community Work parties then helped build the house alongside the many other volunteers and the family themselves.
Community Work parties have been at the house every day from Tuesday to Saturday since the project began and have taken pride in doing something positive for the family and the community, Lance says.
"It's community work to the max. We've brought in guys with no skills and we've given them skills."
Project manager Bob Stuart says the work of the Community Work parties on all 10 houses Habitat For Humanity has built in the area has been outstanding.
"A lot of the work was hard, physical labour but they tackled it with real enthusiasm and were glad to play a part in helping the family into a home," he says.
According to their website, Habitat For Humanity has helped build 250,000 houses around the world since being founded in 1976.
Families are required to put in at least 500 hours of work into the building of a house.
Once it is completed, an independent valuation is done and the family purchase the property for that price.
They are charged no interest on the amount and their repayments are capped at 30 per cent of their income.
Offenders restore and reshape our coastline
Rising sea levels and erosion have seriously damaged long stretches of the New Zealand coastline but offenders serving Community Work sentences in the Bay of Plenty and Manawatu are helping stem the tide of destruction.
For nearly 12 years offenders have been a pivotal part of a community-led effort to reverse the widespread destruction of Bay of Plenty sand dunes.
Regional Coast Care Coordinator Greg Jenks says the project began in 1995 with the planting of native plants that once dominated the dunes before the arrival of humans.
Thanks to offenders serving Community Work sentences and 1200 volunteers, 120km of dunes stretching from Waihi Beach to Cape Runaway have now slowly but surely been covered with native spinifex and pingao.
Greg is confident this will eventually cover a further 75km of the picturesque coastline.
An international panel of climate change report recently quoted the Bay of Plenty dune restoration project as a world first in terms of size and scale - a claim that Greg is particularly proud of.
"We tell offenders why this work is important and encourage them to take pride in what they're doing. They're doing a great
job and the proof is seeing the bollards (posts) move seaward as the dunes are reclaimed.
"The bollards let the public know that the dunes are protected but in a sense they're also an acknowledgement of the hard work that everyone has put into restoring the dunes. I know some offenders view the bollards as proof they're part of our community and making a meaningful contribution to this effort."
Meanwhile, further south, the ongoing effort to stabilise Manawatu's sand dunes resumes this month with offenders completing
Community Work central to the success of the project.
Manawatu District Council Parks and Reserves Manager, Albert James, says the work includes planting marram grass and native spinifex, building log protection and installing information signs aimed at controlling public activity in the area.
"Offenders have contributed to a number of our sand dune and river protection projects at Himatangi Beach and Tangimoana over the past few years," says Albert.
"They've cleared sand off roads following wind erosion blowouts and assisted with various beautification projects and walkway developments through the townships.
"They've done a very professional job and we're happy to continue a working relationship with them for the foreseeable
"They'll be working alongside conservation workers, volunteers, contractors and local residents over the next three to four years.
"In 1995 the New Zealand Army spent several weeks levelling and reshaping dunes that had moved perilously close to a number of houses along the Himatangi beachfront. We don't want to return to those days and Community Work offenders are helping us ensure we don't."
- The cost of restoring dunes is approximately 1 per cent of the cost of building seawalls.
Far reaching support for scout movement
The Chatham Islands' scout hall is almost unrecognisable. The once run-down facility has been well and truly spruced up thanks to assistance from Community Work teams.
"The hall was in really bad shape so I suggested it would be an ideal job for our offenders to tackle," says Chatham Islands
Senior Community Work Supervisor Richard Seymour.
"It was an ambitious project but offenders working alongside local volunteers have dismantled the hall, loaded it onto trucks, moved it to a better site and started rebuilding.
"The Chathams' population rarely reaches more than 600 people so community projects can be very hard to get off the ground.
"This project has demonstrated how important it is for the community to pull together and how their actions can have an impact. It's good for offenders on Community Work to be part of that."
Richard says while the hall is far from finished, it's progressing well with plans to have covered decking on three sides of the hall completed for the winter sports season.
The interior fit-out and painting will begin after that.
There are no firm plans for the opening ceremony but Richard both expects and wants the Community Work offenders to be there.
"The quality of their work has been superb and although they may not have chosen to work on this project if not for their sentence, they've put a huge amount of effort in," he says.
"I believe working on a project like this and becoming so involved in the community could be a turning point for many of them."
In the meantime, offenders serving Community Work sentences are providing a weekly ground maintenance programme for the Motor Moana scout camp in New Lynn, Auckland - a programme the camp would otherwise struggle to complete.
Senior Community Work Supervisor Stephen D'Souza says the weeding, bush trimming, drain clearing and firewood collecting activities undertaken by offenders are hugely important to both the scouts and Motor Moana as a whole.
"It's a non-profit organisation that shares its hall with the wider community and a number of groups that hire the facilities for conferences and meetings," says Stephen.
"They operate a tight budget which would be seriously compromised without the longterm assistance that Corrections has given them - an association I hope will continue for a long time yet."
The Motor Moana project uses the services of groups of eight to nine offenders at any one time. Over and above the general maintenance programme they provide, offenders recently built a wooden fence to create privacy for the camp.
- The Chatham Islands can have seven to eight people serving community sentences at any one time. The sentences are handed down by the court which arrives from New Zealand every three months.