YOUTHFUL Feilding worker Michael Morris is appreciative of the chance to be involved in the Community Max project that is underway at Kitchener Park, near Feilding.
The 23-year-old former bricklayer is one of eight young people, aged 16 to 25, carrying out various tasks at the park in a scheme that aims to boost youth work opportunities through ongoing regional community projects.
Community Max targets youth workers whose chances of getting work are limited and gives them a chance to get some experience and skill sets during a six-month contract. They are paid the minimum wage while on the job.
Michael has been working on the scheme at Kitchener Park for two months and has learnt more about the native bush in that time than when he did a six-month conservation course a few years ago.
“It has been a good project for me as I was previously on the unemployment benefit and supporting my partner and 11-month-old daughter. Now I’ve got a job.”
He was so thankful for the opportunity that he wrote letters to Manawatu District Mayor, Ian McKelvie, and Justice Minister and Rangitikei MP, Simon Power (who recently visited the park), expressing his gratitude.
“I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for everyone involved in the Community Max project,” he told them. “I hope that other people who join in the future appreciate it as much as I do.
“Hopefully it will bring people a brighter future and maybe a career in this line of work – that’s what I am aiming for anyway,” he added.
Parks and Reserves Manager, Albert James, said Kitchener Park was selected as the Manawatu District Council’s project contribution as there were many good supervisors on site helping in the restoration of the reserve after it was badly damaged by the 2004 flood.
He said Community Max workers were planting trees, collecting and growing seed, removing noxious weeds, repairing the boardwalk, making mulch, fencing and helping with riverbank protection for Horizons Regional Council.
“The wet weather, unfortunately, made things difficult initially, but they have done well, considering. It’s a good project and allows them the chance to develop good work ethics,” said Mr James.
Kitchener Park Curator, Gavin Scott, said Community Max was one of the better work schemes as it allowed enough time for workers to learn some work skills and be in a better position regarding future employment prospects. It was also better funded.
Mr Scott said current work was largely focused on the park’s management plan, including the creation of the walkway from Kowhai Park to Kitchener Park, replanting, upgrades of the security systems and the metalling of the carpark.
“We also seem to be getting a lot more visitors, such as people out walking their dogs, and there is greater bird life as the trees begin to fruit and provide a better food source,” he said.