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.
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.
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.