Pilot programme gives hope to Chch's environment and young people

An innovative new programme will address two of Christchurch’s pressing needs post-earthquakes: its damaged environment and its out-of-work young people.

The eight-month pilot programme, which formally launches today, will give young people an opportunity to transition into work by volunteering to help restore the city’s green and urban spaces. The pilot is supported by The Todd Foundation, Sovereign and the Tindall Foundation. Volunteers have already been working ahead of the official launch, working along-side Council Parks staff in the Port Hills, and supporting the Te Kōhaka o Tūhaitara Trust at Tuhaitara Coastal Park where the quakes have done significant damage to the existing walking tracks.

Conservation Volunteers, an international organisation that connects volunteers with projects to conserve and restore nature environments, says the programme will address two urgent needs in Christchurch.

"We all know that many of Christchurch’s open spaces were badly damaged in the big earthquakes in recent years," says Dave Sharp, CV Partnership Manager "What’s not so immediately apparent are the challenges facing the city’s young people. Youth unemployment has risen dramatically, and many young people have left the city.

"This project is designed to give young people new opportunities that could lead to new careers, while helping to restore Christchurch’s natural environments, as well as providing hands-on support to a range of post-quake community initiatives."

Almost 10,000 young Cantabrians are out of work, according to Statistics New Zealand’s June-quarter Household Labour Force survey. Of Cantabrians aged 15 to 24, 18.6 per cent are deemed "unemployed", compared with an average of 6.5 per cent across all working age groups in Canterbury. Many more have left the region.

At the same time, more than a thousand damaged mature trees have either been removed or scheduled for removal from public land in and around Christchurch.

"However, there is much to be hopeful about," says Dave Sharp. "The earthquakes created an unprecedented degree of goodwill and community engagement in Christchurch. The Student Army is perhaps the best example of the willingness of people to become involved and the value of such voluntary contributions.

"We hope to harness that spirit, to make a positive impact on both Christchurch’s people and its environment."

Sovereign’s CEO, Charles Anderson, says the partnership is a pillar of its newly launched community programme, which takes action to ensure the future health and happiness of New Zealand communities. "We’ve been actively looking for practical ways in which we can have a positive effect on our communities. The Youth Action Programme will boost Christchurch’s wellbeing on two fronts - by helping young people reach their potential, and by helping to restore the environment for the good of all Christchurch residents."

The pilot programme will involve 40 young Christchurch people, all of whom will be given free training in caring for the environment, as well as work experience. Work and Income will refer young people to the programme.