From the General Manager's Office
Community work teams have been contributing in a big way after the Canterbury earthquake. Right after the earthquake took place we got in touch with Civil Defence to say we were ready to take on anything that needed to be done. As you can read in this issue of Community Works, Civil Defence thinks we did a good job. They particularly appreciate the independence of our work parties; they just sent us where required and the supervisors did a brilliant job of managing the teams and getting the job done.
On some days there were as many as 160 offenders helping out. Many put in extra hours and even days clearing the gutters, the streets, people’s gardens and council parks. Community work teams could certainly make a difference in Canterbury and they did. Offenders gave back to the community and saw first hand the appreciation of that community. People often approached our work teams in the street and asked for help. Even offenders with a community sentence who weren’t on community work turned up at the service centres to ask if they could help.
We had 25 extra staff members from outside Christchurch volunteer to work in the quake zone, giving stressed staff a break and supporting those still working. Their contribution has been greatly appreciated.
While we are still busy with the recovery work in Christchurch, we are also always on the look out for new projects around the country.
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 your local CPS Service Centre can be found in the White Pages under the Department of Corrections (under the blue government department pages).
Community Probation Services
Chance of a lifetime to nurture new future
The Whangai Trust nursery at Miranda, near Thames, grows thousands of native trees. For years community work teams have been helping out every Friday, but since September six young offenders on community work are out there daily. CPS Acting Service Manager Dave White explains how it all came about.
Te Whangai Trust is a sustainable ecological and educational organisation that supports and trains people who find it challenging to find a paid job. “A couple of months ago they asked us if we were interested in setting up a partnership with them to provide training opportunities for young offenders. Of course we were enthusiastic to help create this chance of a lifetime for some offenders,” says Dave.
The project came about as a joint venture with Work and Income under the flag of Community Max. Community Max goes two ways. It provides a wage subsidy for young people and it helps community-based projects such as Te Whangai’s nursery. The nursery provides native trees and shrubs for regeneration projects in the Waikato and Thames/Coromandel area.
“These offenders still serve their day’s community work sentence,” says Dave. “But they also go to the nursery the other days of the week to help out and work towards a Level 2 NZQA certificate in horticulture. They get paid for the days they are not doing their community work sentence. It takes about six months to complete the course. If offenders on the project finish their sentence before they have their certificate, they are expected to stay on the project.”
Dave is pleased with how the project has been going. “The guys and girls who have been selected for this project are grabbing this opportunity with both hands. Motivation was our biggest criteria when we selected them. Not only do they get a certificate at the end, they learn skills that can help them find a paid job at the end and help them lead a crime-free life!”
Community work teams in Canterbury: A great help after earthquake
Jane Hurdle is one of the service managers who have been coordinating the community work activities in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquake. They work together with the regional council and Federated Farmers to find out which activities are most needed.
“In the first week I mainly spoke with Civil Defence”, says Jane. “While Civil Defence was dealing with major repair work on roads and sewage, they asked us to go into the suburbs and help out. We often worked alongside the student volunteers and took out vans with 5-7 offenders instead of the usual 10. This enabled the supervisors to keep a good eye on the offenders in this unusual situation.
“Offenders really responded to the situation in the first week. They often came in and did more hours than their sentence. Community work supervisors also put in a lot of extra hours and even extra days. Everybody was helping out as much as possible. It was really neat that people often came up to us in the street and asked us to help.”
Right after the earthquake community work teams started helping out with the clearing and the cleaning. The supervisors put lots of extra hours in. “They did a great job, there is no way we could have done it without them,” says Assistant Area Manager Tony Aitken.
Jo Kane from Civil Defence says the community work teams did an ‘absolutely excellent job’. She is pleased that they responded so fast. “Especially in the first week when it was very hard. When the weather turned bad and everyone was quite emotional, it was great to know we could count on community work. They even had teams come up from as far as Ashburton. What made Corrections such a good working partner was that the community work teams had their own equipment and work structure. We just located them to an area or building and they basically managed themselves.”
A great example of the good work by the community work teams according to Jo can be found in Kaiapoi. “A school there was badly hit by the earthquake and the community work team managed to get it all cleared up and clean in only a week’s time. It gave the kids a clean and bright place to go to when they had to go back to school.”
Word of mouth
Talking to Jane in the beginning of October, she explains that most of the emergency work has been completed. She expects more requests for help once the Earthquake Commission has got back to residents about their claims. “The work we get in the meantime mainly comes to us by word of mouth. We’ll be helping out at somebody’s house, clearing up mainly sand that the earthquake pushed up – some places are covered in more than three metres of sand – and neighbours will walk in and ask us to help them too.”
“Some of the things we see are just heartbreaking,” says Jane. And she recalls the old lady in Avonside who could not get her car out of the garage until community work teams came along. “She had been stuck at home for five days so she was over the moon when she was finally able to do some shopping. Regularly people were so overwhelmed by the whole earthquake disaster that when they got some help from us, they would just burst out crying. I still get phone calls from people thanking us and bursting into tears.”
Helping out with the clean up had its own challenges. “We worked very closely with the council’s health and safety people as there were quite a few issues we had to pay attention to. And often there would be a water restriction in place, which meant we couldn’t hose dirt down, for example.”
Jane adds that community work’s high visibility has prompted requests for help with future projects. “People have really started to notice us and we will probably be asked to help out with ongoing projects for Civil Defence in Kaiapoi. Another ongoing job will be working alongside Environment Canterbury (Ecan) and the Rural Recovery Group. Helping out in the aftermath of the earthquake has certainly put community work on the map in Canterbury.”
On your bikes!
December 11 will see the opening of the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT) All Terrain Park. Since October community work teams have been creating mountain bike tracks at the north eastern end of the park.
Development of the TECT All Terrain Park started in 2007. The 1650ha park is designed to cater for a range of recreational activities, including horse riding, target shooting, rallying, 4x4, motocross and mountain biking. As it is huge the work is done in stages and the mountain bike area is one of the first to be ready when the park officially opens in December.
“It was just the right timing when the Tauranga Mountain Bike Club asked us to help out in October,” says Tauranga Service Manager Mark Nijssen. “A couple of other projects had just finished and we were pleased to get into this straight away.”
Weekly at least five work teams from Tauranga and Te Puke have been going out to the park that strategically lies approximately 30km from Tauranga, Rotorua and Te Puke. “We started clearing all the wood. That took about two weeks,” says Community Work Supervisor Dave Robertson.
“TECT All Terrain Park Trail Coordinator Murray Avery joined us to tell us which trails needed to be created after the clearing. He is a renown trail builder; he designed the tracks in the Redwoods in Rotorua and has also worked in the United States. The offenders learnt heaps from Murray and got the chance to make reparation in a great way. Many locals as well as tourists will enjoy riding their mountain bikes through this new park.”
TECT All Terrain Park Manager Ric Balfour is pleased with what has happened so far: “The community work crews are doing a fantastic job. They are showing a good work ethic too. We did give them a pep talk at the start so that might have helped motivate them as well.”
Mark hopes that the news that community work teams helped create the mountain bike park will travel to the other user groups. “It would be great if we could help out with the other parts of the park – this is a great community project and we’re proud to be part of it!”
For more information go to TECT All Terrain Park under ‘projects’ on www.westernbay.govt.nz
Community work reaches cyberspace
Creating a website might be an unusual community work sentence. But it is one that is much appreciated by the Community Development Network Trust, a youth agency in Christchurch. How did you find this offender, how did it come about?
“The offender Peter (not his real name) got in touch with us after he was sentenced to do community work for the Trust. He shared his ideas about building a website for us. The timing was just right and it was free! We knew we needed a website as it’s a great way to get information across to young people and families. Also it’s a good way of getting their feedback on our activities,” says Trust Manager Alan Aitken.
Many, many pages
Alan says that Peter came up with eight different looks. “Some were quite funky while others had a corporate feel to them. What we have chosen is something that looks professional but warm. We want to look welcoming to young people and trustworthy to parents and funders.”
The next step was mapping the content on the site. This was very time consuming. Alan explains that although they are not a large organisation, they do lots of different things. “The website has to reflect this diversity and that means many, many pages,” says Alan. “The ball’s in my court now as Peter has given me a template to complete so we can get all the information onto the pages.
“Progress has been slow because in the current economic climate fundraising tends to dominate our horizons. But I am pleased with what Peter has done so far and it will be a huge step forward for the Trust once the website is completed. The launch is next month and I have a lot of work to do. Peter gets things done a lot faster than I do.”