Severe weather events this year have led to a new chapter for 120 jobseekers across the North Island tasked with the clean-up.
Enhanced Taskforce Green has been a life-changing initiative for workers and farmers alike in Wairoa.
Rain or shine, a crew of around 10 have been tirelessly working on various projects, clearing and fixing bridges and fences damaged in Cyclone Gabrielle.
“It is a positive thing when you get to see the work you have done,” the taskforce’s Huk Tipuna said.
“The boys’ sense of accomplishment is right up there.”
The workers are all jobseekers relishing the opportunity presented to them.
“It means a lot, quite a bit, especially when you’re trying to get a job in a little town like this,” taskforce worker Albert Hook said.
Hook said it’s been a struggle finding work in Wairoa due to his heavily tattooed appearance but has enjoyed being able to provide for his family through the taskforce.
“It made us look at life a little differently, able to provide a bit more now,” another worker added.
This effort will continue until January, providing substantial benefits to the workers and their families.
Taskforce Green Wairoa organiser Maria Cairns said the community is also feeling the flow-on benefits from the work.
“These guys were beneficiaries from the beginning. Just having a job for 30 weeks has just been so much benefit to them and their whānau. It improves their lifestyle, it improves their whānau’s lifestyle being able to afford the basics, it improves our community’s lifestyle,” Cairns said.
For local farmers like Alan Newton, Taskforce Green has been invaluable.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have had the work done. They’ve done a really fantastic job of what they’ve done,” he said.
Since the cyclone, the nationwide taskforce has cleared and rebuilt hundreds of kilometres of fencing. The work has proven to be a win-win situation, with around 30 peopl having since gained full-time employment.
Ministry for Social Development regional commissioner Karen Bartlett emphasised the significance of the program for those seeking work.
“The Enhanced Taskforce Green is dependent on a disaster, so in that sense, you would rather it didn’t happen. But actually, the fundamentals of it – paid work, learning skills – are vital for people to move from an unemployed situation to productive and sustainable employment.
“Overall, it’s a very successful outcome out of a pretty bad situation.”
Government funding for the scheme is due to run out in the coming months.
“This work is very important for the individuals and for the community, so we’ll be looking for every opportunity to be able to proceed or to adapt our process to ensure that people are receiving training, employment, and learning the skills for the next wave of jobs that’s coming our way,” she said.