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Goff: Building Construction yard at Spring Hill

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Corrections

10 July 2008

Speech Notes

Opening of the Building Construction yard at Spring Hill Corrections Facility

Tena Koutou katoa, good morning and welcome to the opening of Spring Hill Corrections Facility building construction yard.

I would like to acknowledge the Minister of Housing the Honourable Maryan Street, Mayor for Waikato District Council Peter Harris, the Waikato District Councillors who are here with us today, Philip Leather Builders Construction Group representatives, kaitiaki and Pacific Island Group representatives.

Thank you for joining me today to officially open the new building construction facility at Spring Hill Corrections Facility, which is a joint venture between the Department of Corrections and Housing New Zealand Corporation.

This project will provide employment and training to more than 90 prisoners at this site, which will likely increase in the future. More than 40 prisoners will work in the refurbishment yard and 50 in the internal prison workshop, refurbishing up to 40 state houses a year.

They will be involved in stripping out the inside of houses and re-fitting them with new kitchens, vanities, tubs and shelving made by prisoners in prison workshops. This is real work and will provide real skills.

This project represents a milestone for prisoner employment. It is the first of its kind, in the way it provides a range of practical building construction trades training to prisoners.

Working with Housing New Zealand, we are taking a whole-of-government approach to reducing re-offending, through providing real work training and opportunities, while at the same time turning old worn-out housing stock into liveable homes.

Housing New Zealand will manage the refurbishment operation, including the transportation of houses and quality checks, and have contracted CIE as a labour supplier, at market rates.

That is important. The money will be used by Corrections to help fund its side of the venture. We have worked with the building industry and unions. This initiative meets Housing New Zealand’s need for building industry skills, which it has been unable to find on the market, even in the environment of a slowdown of the building industry.

This project is the latest in a wide range of employment initiatives for prisoners the Government, through the Department’s Corrections Inmate Employment programme, has put in place.

It is doing this for a very good reason. Prisoners who find work after prison are much less likely to re-offend, which contributes to our society’s safety. It also aims to create a work ethic, in many cases for the first time. Half of all prisoners had no formal qualifications and only 45 per cent were in paid work before going to prison.

When the Government renewed the Prisoner Employment Strategy two years ago it set a target of having 60 per cent of prisoners involved in employment or training by 2010.

We are on track to achieving this goal. As of June, there were 2335 prisoners involved in employment or training which was equal to 51 percent of the prison population or almost 66 percent of the sentenced population.

162 are on the Release to Work programme. This is a programme where prisoners, who are reaching the end of their sentence and meet the strict criteria, work with an approved employer in the community.

CIE assesses market trends to identify industries that require qualified workers within the geographical areas that prisoners are likely to be released. CIE then provides training and employment opportunities within these types of industries to upskill prisoners.

The aim is to increase prisoners’ chances of obtaining meaningful employment on release while helping to ease some of the regional skills shortages.

This building construction facility opens at a significant time for prisoner employment. We are currently at the two year mark for the Prisoner Employment Strategy, which forms part of the Government’s Effective Interventions drive to reduce re-offending.

To ensure we can continue to provide employment and training opportunities to an expanding number of prisoners – so they can successfully reintegrate back into society and not end up back in our prisons - we need to continue to be able to provide them with real life work opportunities. Refurbishing these state houses meets that requirement.

We welcome the opportunity to work in collaboration with Housing New Zealand and look forward to continuing to expand prisoner employment opportunities for prisoners in the building construction trades.

To finish, I would like to thank the kaitiaki and community for their support. I also wish to acknowledge the efforts of Corrections and Housing New Zealand staff in establishing this facility in a period of only six months.

The establishment of this yard is a demonstration of how two Government agencies can work effectively together towards community goals.

ENDS

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