Community Works - September 2010
From the General Manager's Office
The number of community work sentences has once again increased over the last financial year. In total 3,754,618 hours of free labour were provided to communities throughout the country in 2009 – 2010. There were 43,781 new community work sentences in 2009 – 2010 compared to 40,934 new starts in 2008 – 2009. At any one time approximately 26,000 offenders are serving a community work sentence.
We were pleased to mark the start of construction of a new Service Centre in Flaxmere, Hawke’s Bay, with ceremonies attended by 30 people. Mayor Lawrence Yule, Counsellor Henare O’Keefe and Des Ratima of Te Aranga Marae, Flaxmere, were among them.
It is always good to receive positive feedback and several thank you letters led to some stories in this issue. People near Feilding can enjoy their walks in the Mt Lees Reserve even more with the extra loop that a community work team has created from scratch.
In Whangarei the de-tagging project is going from strength to strength. It now covers most parks, which are all checked daily. Not only has this resulted in a noticeably tidier city, it also has led to new projects as people recognised the teams were pretty good at painting.
CPS welcomes input from community groups to put all the hours of community work to the best use in the community.
Please come and talk to us if you think offenders on community work may be able to help you. Our staff will be pleased to discuss the options with you. The details of the nearest CPS Service Centre can be found in the White Pages under the Department of Corrections (See C under the blue government department pages).
Community Probation Services
Chopping kindling cuts wood
It’s really good when an offender on a community work sentence starts turning his life around. For Craig* it only took one week of chopping kindling at Cargill Enterprises in Dunedin to do that.
Cargill Enterprises’ main goal is to give people with mental and intellectual disabilities the chance to gain some good working skills so they can find a regular job. It employs about 120 people in seven areas such as preparing firewood, joinery and making healthy lunches for schools.
Community Work Supervisor Gordon Broome says that the special work environment requires a certain character. “Craig just fitted right in, he has the perfect personality to work with our clientele! And not only that. Because of his technical background he invented helpful things. For example, he developed a device to keep people safe while chopping wood. So pretty soon he was out of the kindling and moved on to help them with engineering issues.
Cargill Enterprises Operations Manager Shayne Perkins says that Craig did his community work sentence with them “at the right time, in the right place”. And he was the right person. “He treated the people who work here with respect and he taught them many useful workskills. On top of that we had just closed down our engineering division but we still needed help in that area. So we decided to ask Craig if he wanted to help us with those engineering issues for the remainder of his community work sentence.”
Shayne is quick to point out that he has had quite a few good experiences with offenders on community work sentences. “It’s beneficial for us to work together with Corrections as we do not have a lot of money. And because of the people who work here, it’s a special place for offenders to work in too. People with disabilities can really open your eyes and provide an inspiring and sometimes life-changing environment.”
Gordon says that it’s always great to get a good fit between an offender and a certain sentence. “What made this extra special is that Craig has found the environment so inspiring that he is going to do an engineering degree at Polytechnic. It’s a great start to turning his life around and it reminds us at Community Probation Services of why we do the work we do.”
* not his real name
Waste not, want not in Hawke's Bay
Napier has around 300 offenders serving community work sentences. And from August they can even be found in Hastings helping out at the refuse transfer station. Community Probation Services (CPS) considers it one of the biggest and greenest projects in the area.
Community work teams have been helping out with recycling at the refuse transfer station in Hastings for about two years. Now both Napier and Hastings Service Centres send teams down there. “It’s a great chance to work together with the council,” says Senior Community Work Supervisor Stu McKenzie from Napier CPS. “We think this is an important project because it’s environmentally friendly and gives the offenders the chance to do something positive in their community. People can experience first hand that the offenders are making reparation in a way that counts!”
Waste Minimisation Officer Dominic Salmon of the Hastings District Council is very pleased with the work the community work offenders do. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In two years we have had three complaints. That’s very few considering we have teams with a minimum of eight offenders daily between Tuesday and Saturday. Even on Sunday and Monday agencies work independently with a couple of offenders at the station.”
On average 20 tonnes of plastic bottles, paper and glass is collected every month. “That’s about the weight of four elephants…”, says Dominic. “Landfill charges are $115 per tonne so this means an operational saving of about $2,500 per month. That’s $30,000 a year! And that’s not even counting the scrap metal, timber or green waste that is also collected at the site.”
It can be a busy site with up to 400 vehicles a day. The community work team helps people unload their vehicles. They recover any recyclable material. “This is much appreciated as it saves people a lot of time,” says Dominic. “You can tell that it also gives the offenders a sense of pride to be helping other people.”
Another success story for the Napier Community Probation Services is their involvement with community work agency Seekers Megamart in Napier. “Our biggest problem is that we can’t get enough offenders on community work sentences to come and help us,” says David Tait from Seekers Megamart. He started the charity clothes shop about three years ago to help people in Africa. Now there are eight other stores in New Zealand and recently David also opened one in Vanuatu.
Nearly all the Seekers stores get help from community work. “They do a great job sorting out the clothes items we get. In Napier alone we are talking about two to three thousand items a week!,” says David. “The atmosphere is great; we even have people staying on as volunteers after completing their sentence and we have taken on two as paid staff – one is a sorting supervisor, the other a shop manager – as they did such a good job.”
Winning the war
Community work teams in Waitakere have been acknowledged for helping win the war… on weeds.
The WeedFree Trust Waitakere City tries to rid streams and parks of weeds. It also creates awareness of the threats that invasive weeds pose to our native ecosystems. Programme Manager Neil Henderson is impressed with the assistance from offenders on community work sentences. With their help the trust managed to compost 95 tonnes of weeds and green waste. “This meant we didn’t have to send it off to the landfill as we used to do. Without their help ridding the green waste of inorganic contaminants such as plastic and glass, it would have been too costly and labour intensive to manage.”
Senior Community Work Supervisor Frank Williams is pleased to receive such good feedback: “It’s great to make a difference! We got out three times a week to clean up the rubbish from the streams and in the parks. It’s good to hear that our hard work is noticed.”
Neil is also positive about the work the teams did cleaning up a huge infestation of giant reed, a clump-forming bamboo-like grass with a dense root. It can grow up to 5m in height. As a weed on river and stream margins it can block waterways and cause flooding. Giant reed also provides a habitat for rats and possums, and poses a fire risk. At the site in Ranui it was even overshadowing classrooms of the local primary school.
Neil says simply cutting back the reed didn’t do the trick as this weed is considered the fastest growing land plant on the planet. “It springs right back. We needed to dig out its roots. We didn’t have enough funding to get this done by ourselves so it was great that once again the community work teams came through for us.”
Painting the town
The last issue of Community Works saw the start of community work teams being involved in cleaning graffiti from the parks in Whangarei. Only a few months later, the Whangarei District Council considers it a huge success.
“Freshly painted fences and amenities within our parks make visiting these areas a pleasure,” says Community Safety Officer David Palmer. “We all appreciate the value that Community Probation Services has added in getting rid of the graffiti and making everything look beautiful again.”
Community Work Supervisor Chris Haines is very pleased with the impact the whole project has had. “I think what’s been good about it is that we are on the case seven days a week. And we don’t just do one park then go away. Every day we return to the parks we’ve cleaned to check for new tagging. For a few days our cleaning brings out a response from taggers but after a while it takes the fun away for them.”
Service Manager Barbara Bailey says that they are about to send a second team out to parks and reserves, also for seven days a week. “People can really see that we are out there and we get a lot of positive feedback. We are only about one third of the way through the painting work requested by Whangarei District Council. Now we have ironed out most of the obstacles and learned a few lessons along the way, it is time to get a second work team out there so we can soon start on some of the council buildings as well.
“People often come up to me to say how much they appreciate what we’re doing. The offenders, too, see that what we’re doing is making the place they live in look good again.
“And we are getting asked to do more good projects because people can see what we are capable of. We have been asked to do some more painting jobs – not just detagging, including the repainting of a large wall in the city that will be used for a mural,” says Barbara.
High praise for Manurewa Community Work Centre
Community Work Supervisors Willy Mataiti and Mark Minke received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Manukau Council. Angela Dalton presented the award as recognition for all the good work their work teams do in the district’s reserves.
Senior Community Work Supervisor Denis Tua says they are all pleased to make this contribution to the Manurewa community. “We often hear back from people in Manurewa that they appreciate what we’re doing in the parks. They say it’s nicer for them to go
to the reserves because they know we keep it clean. It’s a job that really makes a difference to the area!”
Walkabout in Manawatu
People living around Feilding can enjoy walking along a new track in the Mt Lees Reserve thanks to the hard work of offenders on community work sentences.
The new track of 3.5 kilometres loops its way around the fringes of the east side of the reserve on the Feilding side. The walkway runs from near the official entrance to Mt Lees, and links with existing bush tracks in the 29 hectares reserve. The bush contains a wide variety of trees including Australian blackwoods, acacia, gums, redwoods and natives. It also has giant bamboo and ornamental plantings like magnolia and giant Himalayan lilies.
Senior Community Work Supervisor Barry Watson says it’s been one of the biggest projects with hundreds of workers involved in the track development. From start to finish it took us more than three years. We had to do everything from scratch and came in three days a week with a team of around 10, in all sorts of weather.”
Parks and Reserves Manager Albert James says the teams of offenders on community work sentences carried out a fantastic job during the past years. He says: “They carved out the track through the bush and upgraded its accessibility. It adds great value to the reserve as many people like to come out here for a walk through the bush, especially in the summer when it’s cool and refreshing.”
Barry says that everything was brought in by hand, even the metal had to be relayed in by wheelbarrow. “We built all the bridges on site too,” he said. “This project was supervised by Bruce Stellard and he did a great job.
“It was also good to see how the offenders gained a sense of achievement and value. Their self-esteem grew and the skills they learnt on this project are very useful to them. And it looks like we’re going to continue creating at least one more track in the
Mt Lees Reserve as the Manawatu District Council has asked us to create another track on the west side near Ohakea,” says Barry.