Corrections Minister Louise Upston says an initiative between Corrections and Horticulture New Zealand is proving beneficial to the department’s goal of turning offenders’ lives around.
Following the successful first year of a pilot programme in Hawke’s Bay that was established to help ex-prisoners and community-based offenders find sustainable employment in the horticulture industry, Corrections and Horticulture New Zealand are now looking to expand the initiative into the Bay of Plenty.
The agreement supports training packages that help prisoners become work-ready for employers and offer permanent career opportunities in horticulture to prisoners once released.
“This initiative has been a win-win and Corrections is appreciative of the support and leadership provided by the horticulture sector, which is helping change the lives of offenders and providing renewed hope for their families,” Ms Upston says.
“The pilot provides practical training for eligible prisoners who want a career in horticulture and will stay within the Hawke’s Bay area upon release. It allows prisoners to leave prison with meaningful skills and qualifications, it provides the industry with trained and qualified employees that will help fill continued labour shortages which will in turn benefit the community.
“Three ex-offenders have found employment through this partnership in the horticulture industry to date. While the number of placements appears small, new individual employer partnership agreements have been signed with four other large horticulture employers who want to support this initiative,” Ms Upston says.
Horticulture is New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry with a turnover of $5 billion. The industry has set itself a target of achieving an industry value of $10 billion by the year 2020. To achieve this target, the industry will need to attract a significant number of trained and qualified horticultural staff to fill a recognised shortage in permanent roles across the country, but especially around the East Coast, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Northland, Manawatu, Nelson/ Marlborough, and Central Otago.