Five years ago Adrienne and Gary Dalton were struck by seeing kids who their kids had been to school with going to jail and coming out with few prospects.
Their solution was to turn part of their Miranda dairy farm into a social enterprise that took the unemployed and the unemployable and showed them how to grow plants.
More than 250 people have been through the scheme over the past five years, referred by Work and Income, the police, courts, and community groups.
A second nursery has been established at Waiuku on land donated by a steel compay, and Dalton says the model, which is a charitable trust, can be replicated throughout the country.
The trust has a training contract with the Ministry for Social Development, but 60% of the income comes from sale of plants, planting services and environmental consulting.
“People contribute their skills and find out how to make the business successful. We teach literacy, numeracy and develop skills in everything from plant propagation to dispatch to leadership.
Te Whangai also acts a job placement service, advocating for its trainees with other employers.
“What works is giving them a sense of belonging, identifying their skills and showing them they can participate and create a legacy for future generations with environmental work.
“Whangai means to nurture or nourish or create a family. Our philosphy is we nurture them and the business prospers,” she says.