Offenders serving community service in the Bay are mucking into nature as part of a new corrections programme.
Bay of Plenty Community Correction's programme 'Te Rongoa' will see two groups of 18 offenders spending four hours a week at the community garden at the Tauranga Community Corrections Site over six weeks.
It will teach participants how to recognise and care for a range of native plants and gain a better understanding of their healing properties.
We can offer our offenders yet another initiative to help them develop useful skills as well as a cultural connection
Te Rongoa is the traditional Māori medicinal use of plants.
The programme was part of Corrections' Work and Living Skills programme for offenders who are serving sentences of community work.
District manager Pauline Moran was pleased to see the programme get underway.
"This is definitely one of our more innovative programmes.
"I am thrilled we can offer our offenders yet another initiative to help them develop useful skills as well as a cultural connection, which we know can both be protective factors and help to reduce re-offending."
Corrections would be working with others to provide the programme, Ms Moran said.
"This programme demonstrates our links with our community.
"We have a high level of iwi involvement in the programme and will have co-facilitators from the Department of Conservation.
"Participants will attend learning opportunities facilitated on local mārae as well as within native bush environments.
"There will be opportunities to continue education by attending the Department's Tikanga Māori programme. This programme involves participants being hosted on a mārae for three nights and being immersed in Māori culture and protocol."
The course covers tikanga - the correct protocols for planting and harvesting rongoa, as well as plant identification and properties. The first group were set to graduate during the first week of April 2016.