Prisoners raise thousands of trees for Matariki planting project

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:28 pm on 14 June 2018

This week, a team of volunteers will begin planting 20,000 native trees at Manurewa's Totara Park as part of this year's Matariki celebrations.

The trees have been grown from seed by inmates at Auckland Prison, who have already contributed 120,000 to the Auckland Council's Million Trees initiative.

Each of the trees has been purified, propagated, grown from seed to seedling, on-planted into a larger container and cared for exclusively by inmates, says Auckland Prison manager industries David Grear.

"It is as close to a real-world nursery environment as we can create behind the wire."

Many who work in the prison nurseries are Māori and either come from South Auckland or have whanau there so the occasion and location of this project both have significance, Grear says.

"For a lot of them, it's a really important and powerful contribution.

"The guys themselves, they really love a project where they feel like they're giving back tot heir community. It's part of their journey to making amends."

The inmates working in the nurseries are themselves volunteers who want to use their time behind the wire constructively, Grear says.

Some are keen to learn how to grow vegetables for themselves and whanau after release and at the same time develop their work ethic.

"Learning how to turn up on time, work in a team, follow instructions, all the things that we often take for granted as skills we use every day."

Others are getting horticulture qualifications and will go on to jobs in that industry after they're released, he says.

"These guys, they realise they don't have a lot of chances and people are obviously watching them, so a lot of these guys really want to do a good job and be given an opportunity. And they'll work very hard once given an opportunity."