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Questions surround prison after Maori Development Minister says they won't throw '$1 billion at a prison Waikeria'

The government may not be going ahead with the mega prison at Waikeria, after the Maori Development Minister said today they would not throw "$1 billion at a prison Waikeria". 

Labour has been mulling over a proposal to knock down the existing Corrections facility and build a 3000-bed prison.

In March, Justice Minister Andrew Little appeared on Marae, and said a decision would be made based on what Minister of Correction Kelvin Davis recommends.

He said a package developed by himself, Mr Davis and Minister of Police Stuart Nash would look at offending rates, the corrections system, the age of some of the prisons, "and what we need to do to make a more humane prison and corrections system in the long term". 

Appearing on TVNZ1's Marae, Nanaia Mahuta was answering a question from National MP Jami-Lee Ross about what the budget meant for struggling families.

"We aren't going to throw 1 billion dollars at a prison in Waikeria. We want to put it into the regional economy,” Ms Mahuta said today. 

"That will be something that will grow the economy, create jobs and opportunities that undoubtedly will see iwi benefit, will see Maori whanau benefit."

Broadcaster Miriama Kamo asked Ms Mahuta directly if that meant the prison was a no-go.

"Let's clarify, did you just say there will not be a mega prison in Waikeria?"

Ms Mahuta said it was a matter for the Corrections minister to decide.

"I think if you build bigger prisons, they'll get filled."

That brought an almost immediate response from Ms Mahuta’s colleague, Finance Minister Grant Robertson who tweeted that no final decision had been made by Cabinet.

Grant Robertson tweeted that no final decision had been made by Cabinet. Source: Marae