Community Works - March 2012
From the General Manager's Office
Hello and a warm welcome to this first edition of Community Works for 2012.
By way of a reminder, each offender serving a community work sentence is issued with an instruction to report, at a certain time and place, to perform their community work hours. Offenders are required to work no more than 40 hours a week, and no more than 10 hours per day. Sentences range in length from a minimum of 40 hours to a maximum of 400 hours and offenders must complete a minimum of 100 hours each six months. The work is either done in teams, supervised by a community work supervisor, or individually in placement monitored by an agency, or a combination of both.
The authorised work, under legislation, for a person sentenced to community work is:
- at or for a hospital, church, or at or for any charitable, educational, cultural or recreational institution or organisation, including a marae;
- at or for any other organisation for old, infirm or people with disabilities
- on any land of which the Crown or any public body is the owner or lessee or occupier;
- at or for any local authority.
The legislation is also clear that an offender may not carry out their sentence in place of a person who would otherwise be employed to carry this same work.
This year will see ongoing improvements to Corrections’ management of community work. Our intention is to work more closely with our sponsors and agencies to ensure offenders complete their community work hours. This will also ensure we maximise the learning that offenders achieve through the work they are doing.
As always, we’re constantly looking out for new and worthwhile projects, so let us know if you think we may be able to help your community. The details of your local Community Probation Services site are in the White Pages under the Department of Corrections (within the blue Government Department pages).
Community Probation Services
Trike thrills school kids
One particular offender on a community work sentence lived in an isolated spot some 80 kilometres from Invercargill where it would be potentially difficult to find a good match for a community work project.
However, a call from Invercargill recycling centre, the Garage Re-use Shop, offered the donation of an old trike frame creating the perfect project for the offender, a retired engineer who also had great practical skills. The offender’s brief was to make the trike road-worthy for the special needs unit of the local Fernworth School.
The offender utilised his engineering skills to good effect, toiling away in his workshop to complete his 60 hour sentence.
The trike glistens with navy and gold paint, matching the Fernworth School colours. It also has wooden blocks on the pedals to help little feet reach.
The school children are loving the freedom that the trike is providing them, says Special Needs Co-ordinator Tammie Plunkett. “One of the kids, Benjamin, has been grinning from ear to ear… he even gave me a big hug!”
The trike is being used at the school to develop motor skills for pupils lacking the confidence and balance to ride a bike.
For over three years a team of offenders on community work sentences have tended to the Waimarie Nurseries in Whangarei.
The community gardens, which span approximately 15 acres, are open to the public and supply and sell a wide range of native plants and trees to the public, the Department of Conservation and the local marae. All profit goes back into the nursery and local community projects are also supported by the nursery. Many of the offenders are from the local area, and therefore see directly how their work supports their own community. This in turn has a positive effect on their self esteem, pride and general self worth.
Through this particular project, offenders have learnt transferable skills, including building retaining walls and planter boxes.
Service Manager Maryann Moki says the offenders are learning life-long horticultural skills. “All of the skills are hugely useful and the offenders are really enjoying putting them into action. The work is helping them feel they’re doing something truly worthwhile.”
Vital role for offenders in the Rena clean-up
It’s been a heart-breaking few months for the people of Tauranga and surrounding area to see their beautiful beaches fouled by thick black oil spilled from the container ship, Rena.
Residents along the Bay of Plenty and East Coast tread with caution when they take a stroll along their local beaches.
Since the container ship ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef on 5 October, offenders on community work sentences, along with staff from Rotorua, Whakatane, Kawerau, Te Puke and Tauranga have been deployed at a number of local beaches to assist in the painstaking clean-up work.
The massive community-based clean-up saw offenders working at a safe distance from other members of the community to get the job done. On average, sixty offenders worked daily over a period of five weeks. Offenders were provided with protective suits, and were required to scrape, pick up and sift the oily sand.
Tauranga Service Manager Mark Nijssen says the offenders had no hesitation in mucking in. “Our offenders were anxious to be actively involved in clearing the beaches. In the first three weeks following the disaster the offenders were itching to get to the beaches and do their bit, regularly asking at line up ‘are we going to the beach today?’ It was great to see the offenders passionate about getting their backyard back to good working order for themselves and their whanau.”
Whilst community work on the project was suspended in mid November, offenders have returned to the clean-up project for short periods and remain on standby to be of further assistance.
While all of the beaches have been given the all-clear for the public to use, they are still warned to exercise caution as small amounts of oil may be still buried in the sand.
Strong relationship flourishes at Founders Heritage Park
A carpenter and a joiner were among the six hand-picked offenders who spent a total of about 400 hours assisting a local builder with the renovation of a building which is now Fresh FM’s radio studio.
The cost of refitting the building as a radio studio suitable for broadcasting would have been too much for the community access radio station to afford. Hence, Fresh FM turned to the Nelson Community Work Centre for assistance.
Other ongoing community work projects are the norm at the Founders Heritage Park, where they enjoy a strong partnership with the Community Work Centre. Offenders generally work two days per week, maintaining the grounds, weeding, replenishing bark etc. Other projects include helping out at an annual book fair by lugging boxes of books around and preparing them for sale. They also prepared for a Waitangi Day Kai Festival; and the next substantial project is to build a pond on the ten acre site.
Probation Officer Steve White says that they make particular effort to ensure projects suit the offenders’ abilities. “The projects we undertake are often varied and every effort is made to match the skills of each individual with the projects.”
Building for the future
Despite the rain, Motueka’s A&P Show was a success, thanks in part to a three-bay shed built by offenders on community work sentences at Marchwood Park.
Ten offenders spent their Saturdays over about three months building the shed which housed chickens and poultry on show day. Post event, the sheds are home to show-jumping equipment and it is expected they will stay on site for the next 50-60 years.
Show committee member Ray Dowell said the offenders did a remarkable job, given that many of them had no experience in building. “On an average day I would teach an offender to use a tape measure, a handsaw and even a hammer.”
Ray says the offenders are extremely proud of what they have accomplished and bring their family around to the park to show what they have achieved. “From my own personal point of view the workers were keen to come to work and wanted to be involved in the project, so motivating them wasn’t a problem. I feel that they are more connected to the community and are proud of themselves for their achievement.”
Picnic tables and seating were also built by the offenders for show day.
Work on the park has been ongoing for a number of years. A show-jumping arena, horse pens, a veranda off the produce shed, new gates and fencing have been erected.
Ray says he does his best to relate to the offenders and their situations. “I try to give them plenty of encouragement to ensure they feel they’re doing something worthwhile and really achieving something.”
Beating the summer water restrictions at Mokai Kainga gardens
Internet research and kiwi ingenuity has fully paid off for a small but passionate team of community work offenders, determined to make a self powered irrigation system for the community gardens at Wellington’s Owhiro Bay. The offenders were led by Robert Te Whare, the Chief Executive of the Mokai Kainga Trust.
Plans were drawn, measurements taken, and materials (pipes, valves, brackets, gears, etc) were sourced from the Wellington Recycling Centre and various hardware shops. The commitment from the team often went into overdrive, with one offender, Mark, saying he couldn’t sleep at night. “I worried that I may have miscalculated the size of the pipes, especially the intake pipes, which would mean all the hard work gets away on us.”
However, several weeks of perseverance and planning paid off. It took just over a month to make a dream become a reality at the gardens. “No more water restrictions or fear of long hot summer droughts as we now have our own irrigation system to water our vegetables,” says Robert.
It was a real breakthrough to have a pump which could shift three to four litres, 30 to 40 metres away from the stream into holding tanks. The holding tank feeds another two 1,000 litre tanks which then service the rest of the garden.
Offenders are full of enthusiasm says Community Work Supervisor Tupu Araiti. “I am often proud of these men and women as we work together, using their skills and talents to nurture the work and needs of the garden. Skills in carpentry, catering, plumbing, engineering and general labouring work are utilised.”
Other initiatives due to begin at the gardens include composting toilets and a feature water wheel.
The flourishing community garden is a collaboration between Mokai Kainga Maori Trust, the Department of Corrections, Wellington City Council, Friends of Owhiro Stream and the larger community.
The Mokai Kainga Gardens were the 2011 winners of the ‘Heritage and Environment Award’, recognising community services of voluntary organisations; thanks, in part, to the assistance provided by community work offenders.
Fresh is best in Hawera
Initiated by the Department of Corrections, a community garden in Hawera is flourishing, thanks to the assistance of several local businesses.
Vegetables from the garden are donated to the local Hawera Foodbank for distribution to needy families.
Chairwoman of the Foodbank, Hazel Robinson, says offerings from local supermarkets have dried up, and the need for donations of fresh produce has significantly increased. “There’s a lot of hardship and the number of people needing our service is increasing. We used to have seven or eight families a week requiring our services, but demand is now between 10 and 15.”
The garden sits on a quarter-acre section, complete with shed, which was provided jointly by Fonterra and Todd Energy; with Fonterra also preparing the land for planting. Corrections’ Senior Community Work Supervisor Murray West initiated the gardens, and says he’s delighted with the way local firms have pulled together to positively contribute to the community. “Businesses have provided fertiliser, paint, plants and even saws to keep the offenders busy.”
Hard work and donations from several large firms including Fonterra, Woodsys Garden Centre, Smith Bros, Greys Painters, Egmont Refuse, Finer Spraying, Idea Services, the Rotary Club and Kalins Contractors has contributed to ensuring the community gardens are delivering a variety of healthy fresh vegetables.
Up to 16 offenders on community work sentences work at the no-cost community garden every week to weed, plant and generally care for the garden. The produce is donated to the Hawera Foodbank which also aims to assist the South Taranaki Safe House where possible. Foodbank staff collect the produce from the garden every Monday.
Community work offenders are also preparing firewood, ready for charity fundraising. Pallets are chopped in the garden shed and sold to the public to raise money for people living in sheltered accommodation.
Other community organisations are also encouraged to become involved.