8 Sep 2020

Prisoners to get employment with KiwiRail in Northland

11:25 am on 8 September 2020

KiwiRail's announced a new initiative to help prisoners reintegrating back into society.

KiwiRail Wairoa to Napier line carrying logs.

File photo. Photo: Supplied / KiwiRail

The Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced $640,000 worth of funding for KiwiRail to support 20 prisoners to go through a programme over the next two years.

The "Second Steppers" programme will provide training and support for the prisoners with the hope of getting them into full-time work.

KiwiRail expects the first group of five prisoners to begin work at its Whangārei depot by the end of the month.

KiwiRail Group Chief executive Greg Miller told Morning Report the programme is designed to help up-skill the prisoners.

Miller said they will be focussed on how they can improve their skills and grow their mana while reintegrating into society.

"They get track training, they get taught safety, personal behaviour, attitudes at work, components around safely working on a rail corridor, things to do with assembly of track components, and physical work in the field."

Miller said prisoners who go on the programme can get out of prison earlier and make a better life for themselves. The initial cohort will be selected by Corrections.

"The prison service looks very hard at the pros of a prisoner to say what's able to fit in with KiwiRail's agenda and the type of person we want to employ."

He said there will be trained mentors will be working alongside the prisoners to help them in their roles and KiwiRail will have weekly meetings with the prisoners on their performance and progress.

"A significant amount goes into that. We have iwi liaisons, the kaumātua deal with the families... we sit down with each individual every day and every week and go through their own progress. It's quite structured and very well thought through."

Miller said it's "fantastic" the Provincial Growth Fund has supported them and they will be matching the funding by around a third.

"It's a chance some New Zealanders, who are perhaps disadvantaged by their own behaviour, a chance to get back into a workforce and normal life."

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