by Selwyn Manning
The old Kingseat Hospital grounds is being eyed as a possible site for a new regional prison for up to 600 inmates.
Kingseat was finally emptied of the last 16 mentally ill patients last month after the completion of the controversial Bairds Road Secure Rehabilitative Unit in Otara.
South Auckland Health sold the former mental institution to the Tainui Trust Board in 1995 for $6.8 million. Tainui then on-sold the 60ha property to a Korean businessman. However, within the constraints of the Asian economic crisis the Korean/Tainui deal fell over.
Meanwhile, the Department of Corrections has been eyeing possible sites for its long awaited prison.
It had earlier favoured a site on the corner of Manukau’s Wiri Station and Roscommon Roads. That site became unsuitable after local iwi informed the department of a Crown execution of a Maori rangitira Te Takanini [of whom the south Auckland suburb of Takanini was named after], at the site in the late 19 century.
A compromise was decided to abandon building an adult prison there but to pursue plans for a secure youth justice facility on the Manukau site.
Kingseat has since been viewed as the next most suitable site for the adult prison which will include facilities ranging from minimum to maximum security.
Corrections Department officials have yet to confirm where the new prison will be built, stating only that it will be located somewhere between Manukau and Huntly.
The Papakura Rural Protection Association was declined confirmation after it applied under the Official Information Act for information on where the site would be located.
Corrections Department representatives met with the Papakura Rural Protection Association on the weekend and confirmed that staff were making low level site inspections around the probably southern Auckland sites.
Papakura mayor David Hawkins is fervently opposed to a prison being built within or near the Papakura District. He campaigned at last year’s local Government elections on a “no prison” pledge.
With Kingseat inside neighbouring Franklin District but on Papakura’s doorstep, Correction Department officials will face major opposition to a prison being located there. Both Mayor Hawkins and the Papakura Rural Protection Association say any rural site is inappropriate for a prison of this size.
Delays and uncertainty they say
are stalling land sales in the area and causing suspicion