The $94.8 million Provincial Growth Fund investment announced by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones into rehabilitating and upgrading the North Auckland rail will also provide training experience for prisoners.
KiwiRail is planning to take on prisoners as track workers as part of this PGF investment in Northland, and are looking to recruit 20 trainees from Ngāwhā Prison, near Kaikohe. Rail spokesperson Albie Barr said that the training program will help prisoners transition back into society once they’ve been released.
"We'll be out there interviewing and shortlisting from 100 potential cadets or workers; then we'll narrow it down to 20. It'll lead into full-time jobs, so they will get jobs with KiwiRail eventually, when they're released,” he said.
Ngāwhā prisoners had already proved to be among the best workers recruited to help with One Billion Trees tree-planting schemes in the north, according to Mr Barr, and he expects the same would apply to those selected as railway trainees.
KiwiRail said it would take a year to rebuild the North Auckland line, enabling it to carry containers and other freight at a speed that would make it economic.