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Opening of the Colonial Knob Walkway upgrade

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence

28 November 2007

Speech Notes

Opening of the Colonial Knob Walkway upgrade
Kia Ora and welcome.

Mayor Jenny Brash, council officials, ladies and gentlemen.

I welcome the opportunity to be here today as my first official engagement as Minister of Corrections. The opening of this 1.8 km walkway is a positive occasion.

As well as providing a valuable community asset for the enjoyment of the many walkers who make use of it, the project has given 18 prisoners the opportunity to repay a debt to society. Further, it has allowed the Corrections Department to provide inmates with work experience and work skills to assist their reintegration back into society and so reduce reoffending.

The Department was given the contract to supply pre-cut structures, such as stairs and bridges, and to supply the labour to prepare and restore the track. HBD Technics was tasked with carrying out the building works and supervision of the project.

Prisoner employment is a key initiative for ensuring the successful reintegration of prisoners back into the community. It is a vital tool for Corrections to rehabilitate prisoners

The fact is all but the most violent prisoners will be released at some point, and research shows that prisoners who find meaningful employment on release are less likely to re-offend – so making the community safer.

Most prisoners lack any type of formal qualification and have little or no experience of work when they come into prison. More than half of those in prison were not in work at the time of their offending. Through the Corrections Inmate Employment group, the Corrections Department aims to assist them in gaining skills and qualifications to improve their chances of obtaining and sustaining employment on release.

As of October, there were 3755 prisoners involved in employment or training, which was equal to almost 46 percent of the prison population and 57 per cent of the sentenced population.

The Department’s Prisoner Employment Strategy, launched in July 2006, aims to have 60 percent of prisoners involved in employment or training by 2010.

This is equal to an extra 1900 employment positions since July 2006. Almost 600 new employment positions have been created so far and the aim for this financial year is to create an additional 534 positions.

Corrections Inmate Employment has a number of initiatives to upskill prisoners, throughout New Zealand’s 20 prisons. These include:

- more than 140 businesses in prisons – which aim to provide work environments that match, as closely as possible, comparable industry environments. They are in areas such as farming, printing, joinery, engineering, horticulture, catering, forestry and timber processing;

- the Release to Work programme - where prisoners who are reaching the end of their sentence work with an approved employer in the community;

- on-the-job and classroom-based training - where prisoners can gain New Zealand Qualification Authority credits; and

- work parties – where supervised groups of prisoners work with local and regional councils, communities or businesses on work contracts outside of the prison, such as the Colonial Knob upgrade.

To be able to supply real work experiences to prisoners, however, the Department relies on the support of organisations such as the Porirua City Council. I would like to pay special thanks to Councillor Ken Douglas who suggested getting prisoners involved in the project. Also, Paddy Driver, from the Porirua City Council, who has overseen the entire project.

The prisoner workers have done a good job. Corrections had a total of 18 prisoners from Rimutaka Prison work on the upgrade over a period of five months.

Six prisoners from the Rimutaka Prison joinery workshop built 96 sets of boxed steps, six new bridges and one boardwalk. These were installed by two work parties of 6 prisoners, which also pulled out the old wooden structure stairs and bridges, dug drains and reformed the track which included laying out a metal walkway.

Discussions are now occurring to establish a full-time work party to maintain the track over the next year.

The work has provided prisoners with valuable practical experience. Two prisoners, who have since been released, have gained job interviews due to working on this project. Prisoners working in the joinery workshop also gained important hands-on industry experience and qualifications in the form of credits that will count towards national certificates.

To ensure Corrections can continue to promote work experience and skills – so that inmates can successfully reintegrate back into society and not end up back in our prisons – businesses and the community need to continue to be able to provide them with opportunities, such as the Colonial Knob upgrade project.

We are grateful for the opportunity to work in partnership with the Porirua City Council and HBD Technics, and look forward to continuing this alliance in the future.

Thank you.


ENDS

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