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Report into Spring Hill consultatation released

21 April 2004 Media Statement

Minister releases report into Spring Hill consultation

The Corrections Minister Paul Swain has released the report into Iwi Consultation and Other Matters Related to the Spring Hill Corrections Facility.

Mr Swain requested the report following concerns at how spending on consultation and related matters at the Spring Hill facility over a seven-year period compared to spending at three other regional prisons. "Consultation is legally required under the Resource Management Act. Given the size of the project – a $250 million prison, the largest new prison ever built in New Zealand – the consultation process was always going to be a major undertaking. The report makes this point. However my initial reaction was that some of the spending appeared to be excessive, in comparison to the planned prisons in Northland, South Auckland, and Otago," says Mr Swain.

The report has made a number findings, including:

The costs incurred relative to the benefits gained for some contracts were too high. At times early on in the project, there were too many people undertaking similar work. Some of this could have been more cost effectively done in-house, or by a smaller number of tighter assignments.

More reference checking should have been made into independent contractor Tommy Moana when he began work on the project in June 2001, and he should have been stood down once the Department became aware of unrelated fraud charges later that year.

The contract with Jagcon Ltd for project management of the wider regional prisons project should have been tendered. However the contract has been delivered to a high standard and the Department has received value for money. $1.5 million was spent over seven years (1997-2004). Previous estimates covered a four year period.

Mr Swain says the Department has learned lessons from the management of the Spring Hill project.

"Consultation under the Resource Management Act is a complex issue. In the Department's defence, it had already been criticised by the Environment Court for not consulting widely enough with regard to the Northland facility near Kaikohe. That project incurred significant security costs because of the level of protest by some locals and the Department was keen to avoid a repeat of that at Spring Hill," says Mr Swain.

"The ultimate test of the Department's consultation process will be the Environment Court hearing in May."

In the meantime, Mr Swain says a copy of the report has been referred to the Auditor General, to the Co-ordinating Minister for Race Relations Trevor Mallard, and to the Associate Environment Minister David Benson-Pope, who is reviewing aspects of the RMA.

"There are lessons to come out of this and it is important that in future the robust systems the Department already has in place are adhered to."

"The Chief Executive Mark Byers has advised that he will be working with his senior managers to ensure that matters involving public money can face the highest test of public scrutiny, and that management of these contracts will be tightened."

"The Department's approach will be crucial given the importance of maintaining a long-term relationship with Tainui and other groups in the community, as we attempt to reduce reoffending once inmates leave prison."

Mr Swain says prisons are expensive institutions to build and operate, but the regional prisons programme is a crucial part of the government's law and order policies, aimed at providing security for the public, justice for victims, and reducing reoffending.

"The prison population is forecast to increase by 20 percent over the next seven years. The public sent a message in the 1999 referendum that it wanted criminals locked up for longer. We have responded, and more prisons are a natural consequence of that."

ENDS

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