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New prison in Otago clears another planning hurdle


New prison in Otago clears another planning hurdle

The Corrections Minister Paul Swain says the proposed new regional prison in Otago has cleared another planning hurdle with the recommendation by the Clutha District Council's independent commissioners.

The commissioners appointed by the Clutha District Council have accepted in principle the proposal to designate a site at Milburn for the new Otago Region Corrections Facility.

"This brings us a step closer to building a much-needed new facility for Otago inmates,” says Mr Swain.

Mr Swain says he will carefully consider the recommendation.

"I have up to 30 working days to formally indicate to the Council whether I accept or reject the recommendation.

“I’m very pleased that the commissioners have accepted the designation proposal in principle,” he says.

"While the Commissioners have made some recommendations around the proposal, it would be inappropriate for me to respond in detail while I am at this formal stage of the RMA process. However some of the issues were covered in the evidence presented by the Corrections Department, and the Department will be able to comment in more detail."

Mr Swain says the facility is urgently needed, given the forecasted increase in inmate numbers.

The Ministry of Justice forecast estimates there will be around 7400 inmates in jail in 2010, an increase of 1300 on the 6100 inmates in 2003.

"The forecast says the predicted increase in the prison population is a reflection of legislative changes and a series of initiatives undertaken by this government,"

"The public referendum in 1999 showed New Zealanders wanted tougher measures taken against criminals, and the government has acted on that."
“The 59-bed Dunedin Prison, built in 1895, is well past its use-by date and too small to be very effective. A benefit of the new prison is that it will allow Otago inmates to serve their sentences locally and maintain family/whanau links – an important ingredient in their rehabilitation.”

“I hope the local community will keep an open mind about a corrections facility in the neighbourhood. There are many benefits a prison offers. Its construction will boost the local economy and it will generate an ongoing contribution through staff wages and buying goods and services."

"There will also be job opportunities and I commend a career in the Prison Service as very worthwhile.”

The commissioners’ recommendation follows a six-day public hearing in December 2003, to consider the designation application and hear from submitters and the Corrections Department.

Organisations and individuals who made a submission on the designation application, and the Council, have the opportunity to appeal the Minister’s decision to the Environment Court if they wish.

The new Otago facility is planned to open in 2006, one of four new corrections facilities opening between 2005 and 2007.

The modern facility will provide a range of rehabilitative programmes and may run a working farm, teaching inmates valuable employment-related skills.

Background information:

Statutory timeframes

Within 30 working days of the recommendation being received, the Corrections Minister must advise the Clutha District Council whether he accepts or rejects the recommendation, possibly modifying some of the conditions.

Within 15 working days of receiving the Corrections Minister’s decision, the Clutha District Council must advise all submitters and directly-affected landowners/occupiers of the decision.

Within 15 working days of receiving the Minister’s decision, the Council and/or submitters may lodge an appeal on the decision to the Environment Court.

The designation

Under the Resource Management Act, a designation is a provision in a District Plan that relates to a specific area of land and allows certain activities to be carried out on that land. In this case – the proposal is to build and operate a prison at the chosen site in Milburn, near Milton, in southern Otago.

The designation recommendation includes a list of conditions that the Department must follow to build and run the prison. These conditions are to minimise the facility’s potential effects and relate to matters such as the scope of the designation, construction, traffic access, prison lighting, noise, signage and landscaping.

One recommended condition is to establish a community liaison group with representatives from the community, Department, local council, and police, as an ongoing point of community input and involvement with the prison.

Otago Region Corrections Facility background information

Dates and facility specifications are subject to the designation process Department of Corrections, April 2004

Otago Region Corrections Facility

A new corrections facility for Otago is needed to replace the small and outdated 59-bed Dunedin Prison, and to cater for the increasing trend in inmate numbers. The new men’s prison will be a modern, purpose-built facility, focused on rehabilitating inmates and preparing them for when they eventually return to the community. The facility will allow inmates from the region to serve their sentences closer to their family/whanau support – an important factor in their rehabilitation.

Key facts

Location: The site is bordered by State Highway 1, Narrowdale and Back roads, at Milburn, near Milton.

It is a 35-minute drive south of Dunedin.

Size: 187 hectares

Fenced compound: Approximately 15 hectares

Staff: 160-170

Inmates: 335 (current design)

Security rating: Minimum to high-medium

Expected opening: 2006

Special features

•The prison site currently operates as a dairy farm. The Department is investigating continuing the farm as an inmate employment initiative once the prison opens, to teach inmates valuable employment-related skills.

•Security features will include a secure fence around the full circumference of the main prison buildings and inmate accommodation units.

•The Department plans to set up a community liaison group with representatives from the community, Department, local council, police and iwi, as an ongoing point of community input and involvement with the prison.

•The prison will have five self care units, each housing four inmates. The units are designed for longer-serving inmates who are minimum security and nearing release to prepare to return to community life. Selected groups of inmates will live in a flatting-type arrangement, sharing tasks like cooking and cleaning. They also take part in programmes on topics such as budgeting, living skills and parenting.

While the self care units are outside the main prison fence, they will be separately fenced and under 24-hour surveillance.

Economic benefits

•Construction could take 18-24 months and will involve about 170 workers on site daily, peaking at around 370 workers during busy times.

•160-170 jobs at the facility for custodial staff, administrative staff, training instructors, health staff etc.

•$9.5 million spent annually on staff salaries and goods and services.

Regional prisons network

The regional prisons policy meets the need for more beds in the prison system and the aim of housing inmates closer to their home areas. Three new men’s facilities are planned to open between 2005 and 2007, including the Otago Region Corrections Facility in 2006, plus a new prison for women. The other prisons are:

•the 350-bed Northland Region Corrections Facility, near Kaikohe and currently under construction

•the 650-bed Spring Hill Corrections Facility, near Meremere – appeals on planning approval to build the facility are before the Environment Court

•the 150-bed Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility in Manukau City – appeals on planning approval to build the facility are before the Environment Court.

These prisons will form part of a network of 22 prisons nationwide. Currently there are 18 prisons accommodating 6,200 inmates.

Other prisons in the South Island

•Christchurch Men’s Prison, 774-beds

•Rolleston Men’s Prison, 320-beds

•Invercargill Men’s Prison, 172-beds

•Dunedin Men’s Prison, 59-beds (to close when the new Otago prison opens)

•Christchurch Women’s Prison, 98-beds •New Zealand’s largest prison is Waikeria in the North Island, with 905-beds

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