About 7000 native plants grown at Waikeria Prison have been donated to the Department of Conservation (DoC) and planted in internationally significant Whangamarino wetland, near Te Kauwhata.
Whangamarino covers almost 7000ha in the Waikato and is the second largest freshwater wetland in the North Island.
It was chosen as one of three nationally significant wetland sites in DoC's Arawai Kākāriki wetlands restoration programme and was designated an international Ramsar site (wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention) in 1989, in recognition of its status as an area of outstanding biodiversity.
The new plants, grown from eco-sourced at Waikeria Prison's Horticulture Training Nursery near Te Awamutu, are a product of the intensive training programme to prepare learners for employment in production horticulture.
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Over the last two years, Waikeria has increased plant production from 50,000 per year to around 90,000, with a view to delivering 25,000 plants to DoC over the next three years.
DoC partnerships development adviser Wayne Green says: "We're excited about our collaboration with Waikeria Prison and the Department of Corrections. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to work alongside the prison with people who want to give something back to their communities. The plants donated by Waikeria will enable us to rehabilitate grazing lands adjacent to wetland areas."
The first 5000 plants were already put in the ground over two days by a diverse team of DoC workers.
"It was an opportunity for DoC staff who don't usually get out of the office to spend some time in nature, gaining experience at one of our significant conservation sites in the Waikato. It was also a great chance for us to demonstrate the value of the prisons inmates and staff's contribution to tangible conservation mahi."
Waikeria Prison industries manager Stewart Morgan says: "We're incredibly proud to be working alongside DoC to make a real difference to this important project. Opportunities like this provide people in prison with education and skill development to equip them for future employment while giving them a chance to make a meaningful contribution to the community."
The intensive programme provides up to 14 learners at Waikeria Prison an opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills in a range of roles required for production horticulture.
Read more about Whangamarino here.