Forestry helps prisoners into jobs

  • Hon Kelvin Davis
  • Hon Shane Jones
Corrections Regional Economic Development

Eleven men from a pilot forestry training programme for prisoners in Northland now have full time jobs or job offers upon release, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis and Forestry Minister Shane Jones announced today.

The ‘release to work’ programme was a collaboration between Te Uru Rākau and the Department of Corrections, and involved 20 men from the Northland Region Corrections Facility at Ngawha planting just over 326,000 trees in the region as part of the Government's One Billion Trees Programme.

Ten of the participants have also passed their Level 2 New Zealand Certificate in Forestry Industry Foundation Skills, and another seven who remain in prison are continuing forestry studies towards this qualification.

“This initiative has been a great opportunity to give these men a second chance, while helping progress the Coalition Government’s goal of planting one billion trees,” Shane Jones said.

“The participants were fully immersed in the planting process. They worked well as a team, their quality of work exceeded expectations, and the operation met or exceeded commercial standards.

“The contractor cannot speak highly enough about the trainees, who demonstrated an enthusiasm for the work, good physical fitness and a commitment to finding ongoing employment.”

The training programme comprised eight weeks of classroom learning, delivered by NorthTec, and four weeks of practical field work under the guidance of a silviculture contractor.

“The scheme has delivered exactly what was hoped, by giving former prisoners real job skills and a positive future on their release.

“In addition, it’s helped the local forestry industry to fill skill shortages and at the same time, plant more trees,” Shane Jones said.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says the training programme has been a good opportunity to expand on the successful release to work programme already in place in New Zealand prisons, while also supporting regional employment opportunities and the One Billion Trees Programme.

“Our government is committed to reducing crime and reoffending, and giving people in our prisons every opportunity to get their lives on the right track. Programmes like this one, which help offenders into sustainable employment, are an important step in achieving those goals,” Kelvin Davis said.

The pilot is now being reviewed to determine where and how it can be rolled out again.