While the Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust (WRRT) is primarily known for its ability to create significant diversion of material from landfill through recycling, recovery and resale, it is also a leading ‘Social Enterprise’ in the District. A social enterprise is an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than focusing on making profit for external shareholders.
The Department of Internal Affairs defines Social Enterprise as one that:
- Has an economic, social, cultural or environmental mission
- Derives a substantial portion of its income from trade (WRRT’s income in 2011 was $853,420 of which 70% was self-generated), and
- Reinvests the majority of its surplus/profit in the fulfillment of its mission
Department of Internal Affairs spokeswoman Jo Watt says social enterprises are important because they “offer the potential to harness business acumen to help address tricky societal issues”.
The Waitaki Resource Recovery Park provides a fun, positive and ethical role model environment to support work mentoring for ‘community workers’, school ‘non-achievers’, early intervention police referrals and the long term unemployed. We term all these workers as ‘volunteers’. Proven benefits of this program include improved self-esteem, lower recidivist levels and the gaining of work skills which assist placement in mainstream employment.
The Park also offers workplace literacy through Literacy North Otago. This is available to volunteers as well as paid employees. The Ministry of Justice now encourages those completing Court-imposed community hours to carry out a portion of their hours increasing their ‘life skills’. These volunteers are encouraged to participate in this literacy program.
The Park is bounded by the Oamaru Creek which has become seriously degraded over time. Significant planting of natives has been facilitated by the Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust to improve the quality of the waterway and environs. This serves as a model for others to emulate. Many volunteers have been involved in the planting and upkeep over the years and have learnt both why we are embarking on such a project to improve water and habitat quality and how to accomplish it.
Volunteers as well as staff participate in a Health and Safety full site audit every three weeks which is reported and discussed by staff at their ‘Team Talks’. The knowledge of how to recognise hazards and how to minimise their risk is then taken back to their individual homes and environs.
Just by offering recycling, recovery and resale facilities, the Park provides members of the Community the opportunity to feel they are positively contributing to their Community and the environment.
“What we are really doing is resource recovery of people, we just happen to be using the waste stream”.