Planting the first of a million trees at the launch. From left, Nigel Davis (Principal of Wesley Intermediate School), Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Joris de Bres (Director of Trees That Count), Kira Armstrong (Year 8 Wesley Intermediate School), and Jeanette Burns (Department of Corrections Northern Regional Commissioner).Prisoners and offenders are gearing up to help Auckland Council plant one million trees in the city.

Corrections is partnering with the Council for the ambitious Million Trees initiative, launched on Tuesday 6 June.

“The Million Trees initiative will give offenders the chance to give back to the community in a meaningful way, and help create a lasting legacy that will benefit our natural environment for generations to come,” says Corrections Northern Regional Commissioner Jeanette Burns.

Prisoners working in prison nurseries in the Auckland area will propagate and cultivate native tree and plant seedlings for the project, while offenders being managed in the community will do the planting.

“This project is a great fit with Corrections’ goal of reducing re-offending to make New Zealand a safer place. It gives offenders an opportunity to become engaged in purposeful work, while serving their sentence.

“Together with Auckland Council, we will be able to create not only a greener, healthier and more beautiful environment, but offenders will have a unique chance to turn their lives around, while making a positive and lasting contribution to society.”

Serco has committed to propagating 100,000 seedlings in the first year and 150,000 in the second year of the Million Trees project in Kohuora Auckland South Corrections Facility.

“We’re very pleased to partner with Auckland Council and the Department of Corrections for this project,” Prison Director Mike Inglis said.

“Horticulture is important to us at Kohuora, with prisoners gaining NZQA credits and valuable industry experience. Our horticultural workers grow vegetables for our prison kitchen, and this project will give them additional experience which will help them in life and work when they leave prison. It is all part of our commitment to helping people to turn their lives around and become more constructive members of society.

“Since opening two years ago, we have looked for suitable projects that align with our work with Mana Whenua Iwi as kaitiaki (guardians) of the land. Planting native trees in the area surrounding Kohuora and the rest of Auckland promotes our values of sustainability and giving back to the community we operate in,” Mr Inglis said.

Offenders will gain practical skills and formal qualifications while involved in the project, which will help them gain sustainable employment. Research has shown that people in sustainable employment are less likely to re-offend, which in turn leads to safer communities.

Corrections delivers horticultural training in prisons, and prisoners can earn the National Certificate in Horticulture up to level 4.

Participants in the horticultural programme undertake NZQA-accredited training in a range of areas, including propagation of plants, workplace safety, composting, and planting.

At Auckland Prison nursery, for example, around 126,000 native trees and plants are being grown, including manuka, pohutukawa, kowhai, and flaxes. The trees and plants are grown for Department of Corrections’ sites and Department of

Conservation reserves, as well as on contract for other external agencies.

For offenders on community work sentences, much of their work already includes maintaining and beautifying city reserves. Community work involves offenders doing unpaid work in the community to pay something back for the offence they have committed.

Each year, supervised offenders on community work sentences complete a total of about nearly two million hours of free labour in New Zealand communities. At the same time, these offenders take responsibility for their offending, and learn new skills and work habits.