Corrections making 'untrue' comments about Waikeria Prison protest, inmates' families allege

The loved ones of inmates protesting at Waikeria Prison are pleading for Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis to make an appearance, as the standoff with Corrections staff enters its sixth night.

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The mother and cousin of two of the 16 inmates say the men are “being treated like animals”.

They're also calling for media to be allowed inside the prison, accusing Corrections of "saying things that are untrue".

Gunnio, whose son is one of the 16 men protesting at the high-security wing, says Corrections' comments on the ongoing standoff haven't been accurate.

"Corrections are saying things that are untrue... They're saying they're rioting, that's not true," she told 1 NEWS today.

"If you want to know why I know that Corrections, bring me in there, with this channel, and let me talk. Let me be the voice to these men."

Gunnio says she's "sad and proud" of her son's involvement in the standoff, saying he was an adult who "made a decision - a right decision, in my eyes".

"When I think about how long this has been going on for - it's too long, too many generations gone past, but yeah, sad and proud," she says.

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Last night, Corrections claimed inmates had makeshift weapons intended for use against staff, and had busted into a room containing power tools, shields, batons and body armour.

However another woman spoken to by 1 NEWS today, who did not want to be identified, says that's not the case.

Her cousin is one of the protesting inmates, at the prison on remand and waiting to be sentenced.

She says the inmates broke into the room not to arm themselves, but to make "armour to defend themselves against the bullets that they're being shot at with". 

She says they received a call last night alleging that inmates had been shot at by the Armed Offenders Squad inside the prison walls and windows had been smashed, adding that the inmates were "actually quite scared because they didn't want any violence".

When contacted by 1 NEWS, Corrections wouldn't directly comment on the allegations of shots fired at the prison last night.

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The stand-off is heading into its fourth night as violence escalates. Source: 1 NEWS

But a spokesperson did say "Corrections staff do not carry firearms".

The woman says the men, including her cousin, aren't trying to riot or hurt anyone.

"He just wants to make it clear that they're being treated like animals and he's over it."

The inmates have said they're protesting inhumane living conditions; previous reports into the jail have found widespread issues at the high-security facility.

"He just wants to be treated fairly and and getting given clean drinking water," the woman says.

"All they want is a peaceful outcome, so they are protesting against the inhumane living conditions they're under. They're not asking for any privileges - all they want is clean water while they're incarcerated and they want the Corrections to accept that they're feeding these men dirty water." 

She says he and other inmates had received "brown water and stale bread" on Christmas Day. 

"I'm not expecting them to be treated like kings 'cause they're not, but at least give them a fresh piece of bread, not stale bread and a hard piece of meat."

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She says Corrections have not communicated with her family amid the negotiations. 

Both women are now reiterating calls - including by the National and Māori parties - for Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis to make an appearance at the prison.

"He controls the Corrections. He's the one on top of Corrections so he should be here," she says. 

"At least try to help or sort something out, and the only way it will be resolved is if he actually comes here and speaks to the Corrections officers on the next step.. 

She said she believes the protesting inmates will not hand themselves in "unless Corrections accept responsibility for the inhumane living conditions they have put those prisoners in". 

"It will end violently if the tactical team go in violently, but the violence won't come from the prisoners." 

"Kelvin Davis, you need to stand up, man. If this is your mahi, show it. Come in and show them. Step down. If you can't do your mahi, step down," Gunnio adds.

Davis has declined to comment on the situation so far, with a spokesperson telling 1 NEWS he won't comment until the situation is resolved.

An online petition calling for the inmates to receive food and clean water has since passed 1000 signatures. 

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Simeon Brown was turned away from the prison when he arrived to speak to staff. Source: 1 NEWS


Māori Party leader Rawiri Waititi is now trying to get back into the prison to be present as the inmates surrender, he says.

Yesterday Corrections claimed the men had reneged on an agreement to surrender if they could speak to Waititi, but the MP has rebuffed that.

"The purpose of my first visit was never to negotiate surrender. I went to listen," he says.

"The purpose of this visit will be to ensure the safety of the 16 when they surrender."

Whānau of the men have told him they're only willing to surrender if he's present, Waititi says.

"They don’t trust the authorities and believe they will be harmed upon surrender," he says.

"They have stated, they will come out in body bags if I am not there to escort them out and ensure their safety."

He's accusing authorities of "letting their egos and bureaucracy take over", saying his attempts to negotiate another entry into the prison is being "blocked everywhere I go".

"If this situation turns to custard and if there are any casualties – that is entirely on the Government."

Under law, MPs are allowed to visit prisoners and communicate with prisoners in regard to their treatment or hear a complaint about their treatment.

National MPs Simeon Brown and Barbara Kruiger, the party's corrections spokesperson and the local Taranaki-King Country MP respectively, were also turned away when they tried to visit the prison today.

The three politicians have been told they need permission from Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis to attend due to the emergency situation.