Inmates to refurbish damaged housing

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 05:00 16/02/2013

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Prisoners will soon help to repair Christchurch's earthquake-damaged social houses.

The Department of Corrections is set to build a refurbishment yard at Rolleston Prison from which prisoners will work on the social housing units.

The prisoners will refurbish 150 of Housing New Zealand's (HNZ) Canterbury units over the next five years.

Some of the houses are quake-damaged and others require refurbishing to extend their life.

Corrections Canterbury Rebuild project manager Nick Scott said HNZ would pay for the materials used, while Corrections would provide the facilities and labour.

About 60 prisoners would be given "incentive pay" of 20 cents to 60 cents an hour to complete the work.

Manager of offender employment Win McDonald said the qualifications and skills the prisoners would gain would make them "highly employable" on release.

"They can start their trade qualifications and we can give them good references," he said.

"These are skills which are highly sought after in the rebuild of Christchurch."

The refurbishment yard at Rolleston Prison is big enough to handle about 20 houses at one time.

Scott said there was potential to build something "bigger and better" with the help of other agencies throughout Christchurch.

Corrections had been in talks with the Christchurch City Council, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and non-government agencies over refurbishing houses.

"We've also been in discussion with the large insurance companies about accessing the houses they are responsible for in the residential red zone," Scott said.

"They're under pressure to get the red zone cleared and we may have room to store those houses over the next few years before they're refurbished.

"We're really looking for partnerships here to see how our programme can work in with helping the rebuild."

If the other agencies became involved, a separate yard that would hold 30 houses could be built, Scott said.

However, the city council told The Press the programme was still in its infancy and it was too early to say whether the council would be involved.

"We're still in the discussion stage but there is huge potential here," McDonald said.

"This opportunity won't be there in three years' time. It's not often that all the stars line up in a situation like this."

Depending on consents from the Selwyn District Council, Scott said, Corrections hoped to have the yard operating by June.

"We hope to have the first house out of the yard by August," he said.

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