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Northland Waste Kaitaia support mental health and wellbeing

Northland Waste is working together with Northland DHB and Te Mana Oranga to support people with mental health challenges into work.

Two newly employed staff, James Firth and Scott Foster, are eight weeks into their new roles with Northland Waste.

Northland Waste Manager, Darryn Shanks, said that while this was a new initiative for the team, James and Scott are fantastic additions to the team and a pleasure to have on site.

“In the first instance it was important for us to make a commitment to giving them a shot. That was the first step. The second was to follow the process and find people who were going to be a good fit for the site and the workplace,” said Darryn.

Both James and Scott were previously unemployed before engaging with Far North employment support service, Te Mana Oranga. Through Te Mana Oranga, James and Scott were connected with Northland Waste who interviewed them, before extending the invitation to work on a fixed-term basis.

James shared that although the work might be a bit smelly; it was good work for him.

“It’s great to be in work, have a bit of extra money, and to contribute to the community,” James said.

Both James and Scott have set themselves goals for continued employment, and will be working closely with employers Northland Waste and Te Mana Oranga to support their career aspirations.

“We are certainly keen to continue our relationship with Te Mana Oranga to provide opportunities for people to work,” offered Darryn.

“Shortly we will be sitting down with James and Scott to understand what they want to do, and how we can support them. We will be guided by them.”

Te Mana Oranga knows the impact that meaningful employment can have on a person who has experienced mental health challenges.

“Having a mental illness does not make you ineligible for work. These fine young men are a great example of how when businesses step up and provide opportunities in a safe environment, people with mental illness will rise to the challenge,” said Te Mana Oranga CE, Reg Peterson.

“Northland Waste Kaitaia have done a wonderful job of making James and Scott safe and welcomed in the workplace. We are thrilled to see local businesses providing opportunities for our community,” said Reg.

Darryn shared that as James and Scott have established their rhythm and routine in Northland Waste, they have grown in confidence and their work is now speaking for themselves.

“Staff notice what they do, and they see their work before they see their illness,” said Darryn.

It’s not just the staff who are noticing the difference. Regulatory inspections have also recognised the impact of having James and Scott on site.

“Every month we have checks from the local Council, and we have always been given feedback around keeping the site clean and tidy. Since having James and Scott here, it has never looked better. They even asked us what we were doing differently,” shared Darryn.

“It’s fair to say, they are making us look good and definitely adding value.”

NorthChamber Northland Business Excellence Awards

Te Mana Oranga Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Award

The Te Mana Oranga Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Award recognises those businesses in Tai Tokerau that are actively working to reduce the stigma and create employment opportunities for people affected by mental health or addiction challenges.

This Award celebrates organisations that understand the inherent value in providing meaningful employment and training opportunities that foster wellbeing and connectedness. They recognise the impact of creating an inclusive workplace and the benefits to the employee, their whānau, the business, and the wider communities that they serve.

Anyone at any time can be affected by mental health and addictions challenges, in fact 1 in 5 New Zealanders live with mental illness and or addiction1. People with mental health conditions are three times more likely to be unemployed, this heightens the risk of poverty and often compounds together with the other health and social challenges. 1

Inclusive businesses celebrate the resilience, and strength of their employees and recognise the value that their experiences can bring to the organisation.

Award criteria:

To be eligible for this award, your business must have been trading for a minimum of two years.
The business must be able to evidence that they have provided meaningful training and/or employment to an employee or employees that have experienced mental health and/or addiction.

Opening date 1 July – closing 17 September

Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Award link

1Report can be found at: Health and Disability Commissioner, Aotearoa New Zealand’s Mental Health Services and Addiction Services – The monitoring and advocacy report of the Mental Health Commissioner (2020):

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