New $750 million, 600 bed prison to be built south of Hamilton

A "world-leading high security replacement" is set to be built at Waikeria Prison with a mental health facility, the Government announced today.

It is set to be completed in 2022 and scraps the previous Government’s plans to build a mega prison at Waikeria, located south of Hamilton.

Kelvin Davis said yesterday the facilities are not up to scratch. Source: 1 NEWS

It adds 174 new beds to the prison system, half of those which are to be double bunked.

The Government said the current upper Waikeria Prison is at a state where it is not fit for purpose due to its ageing facilities, and will be closed once the new building is completed.

The new prison will have 500 beds, and the mental health facility will have 100. It is expected to cost about $750 million to build.

The shabbiest wing at Waikeria Prison will be knocked down to make way for a new 600 bed facility. Source: 1 NEWS

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said in a statement the new plans are to "set a new direction for prisons in New Zealand, putting public safety first while delivering real rehabilitation and mental health support to reduce reoffending".

"New Zealand is safer when the most violent offenders are locked away, but prison is also a place where offenders should be rehabilitated, not trained by other prisoners to become more hardened criminals."

He described the new plans as striking "the right balance" between giving criminals consequences to their actions and rehabilitating prisoners to reduce the country’s reoffending rate.

"Sixty-two per cent of prisoners have been diagnosed with a mental health or substance abuse disorder in the last 12 months," he said. "We currently do very little to help turn these people’s lives around."

National Party leader Simon Bridges criticised the move, calling the Government "clumsy" and said it is "failing its most fundamental obligation and that’s to keep New Zealanders safe" by choosing to scrap the plans for the mega prison.

The Government say they are building 1,500 new beds to meet the prison capacity gap.

This is in addition to May's Budget announcement that 600 rapid build prison units would be added across the country by the end of 2019. 

Source: 1 NEWS

Unprecedented number of young male sperm whales stranding worries South Taranaki Māori

South Taranaki Māori are concerned about an unprecedented number of young, male sperm whales stranding along the area's coast.

The 13th whale found stranded on Ngati Ruanui Hapotiki hapū in less than two weeks was discovered last Friday at a remote location accessed on foot along the Waihi Beach coastline.

"It is highly unusual and there is concern about a young healthy male pod washing up in these numbers," said Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

"As it is the first in many of our lifetimes, the time is right to learn through this process, allowing traditions to continue with future generations and to understand more of what’s happening out there," she said.

Ms Ngarewa-Packer said thanks to the support received from Ngati Wai and Nga Ruahine, Ngati Ruanui would work together caring for both the Tohora (whale) and each other.

The whale on the beach along the Waihi-Tangahoe coastline. Source: Supplied

"This is an intense process which we undertake with careful consideration. It takes many people to respectfully receive this precious gift named Utungia."

The 11 metre-long male sperm whale will be honoured with unique traditional processes.

“We can’t determine what’s happening out in the ocean but we can learn to manage these losses in a way that brings to life cultural practices that honour and pay respect," said Ngati Ruanui Rangatira Rukutai Watene.

“We have invited Hori Parata and experts of Ngati Wai to educate and lead through this process.”

Ngati Wai are experienced in this role, having managed about 500 whale and dolphin rites throughout Aotearoa.

As the whale has chosen to rest on a rugged and often inaccessible section of Ngati Ruanui beach 'Koutu' along the Waihi-Tangahoe coastline, Ngati Ruanui will be managing limited access.

The whale stranded along the Waihi-Tangahoe coastline in South Taranaki. Source: Supplied


Watch: 'There are no excuses' – Judith Collins and Housing Minister Phil Twyford fire up over state housing waiting list

Debate over the housing crisis fired up today when the Housing Minister was questioned by opposition Members of Parliament.

National MP Louise Upston accused Labour of failing to fund any programmes for people outside Auckland or Hamilton.

There's been 540 social houses constructed since Labour came into office, but the state housing waiting list is at record levels – over 8000 people now languish on it.

Housing New Zealand has halted its tenancy reviews that can see people evicted for a number of reasons, since Labour took office.

Given Housing New Zealand’s reluctance to evict people, Judith Collins wanted to know what happens if neighbours complain about anti-social behaviour or other issues from a state housing tenant.

Minister Phil Twyford Twyford insisted the majority of tenants are good people who do not cause problems.

He also avoided a question on whether he'd resign if someone was sleeping in a car or on the streets, and said the Government had committed $4 billion in the latest Budget for "public homes". 

The state housing waiting list is at record levels. Source: 1 NEWS