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Obsolete Mt Eden Prison to be replaced

Hon Phil Goff

Minister of Corrections


7 May 2008 Embargoed until 12 Noon

Media statement


Obsolete Mt Eden Prison to be replaced

Corrections Minister Phil Goff announced today plans for the replacement of the Victorian era Mt Eden Prison.

“The new prison will meet three key objectives,” Phil Goff said.

“It will provide 21st Century security and standards which will benefit the public, Corrections staff and inmates.

“Expansion of the prison will allow Auckland prisoners to be kept in Auckland, addressing the problem of more than 2000 prisoners being transferred into and out of Auckland each year to other regions due to insufficient bed capacity.

“Thirdly, it preserves the heritage features of the old prison while the new buildings architecturally will fit reasonably well with the local environment.

“The announcement involves a capital investment of $216.3 million and operating expenditure of $35.6 million over the next four years. Of that, Budget 2008 will provide $110.3 million capital funding between 2009/10 and 2011/12, and $13.6 million operating funding over four years. Corrections will contribute the remaining $106.0 million capital and $22.0 million operating from its own funds.

“The landmark old stone building will be upgraded and converted into an administration block. There is widespread public support for the preservation of this building as a heritage site.

“I hope that parts of the prison, constructed in the early 1880s, will be made accessible to the public in the future, with the northern wing perhaps being converted into a museum. I believe there would be real interest in this both from the local community and visitors to Auckland.

“As a working prison, however, much of the old building is totally inadequate. It does not meet standards or levels of security expected internationally in the 21st Century for the containment of prisoners. With the ability of outsiders to throw items such as drugs into open exercise yards, among other reasons, it is not satisfactory from a security point of view.

“The first phase of the building project provides new accommodation for inmates to replace current cells which contain around 450 prisoners. The site will allow for further expansion of up to 570 beds in the future.

“A current shortage of prison cells in Auckland means that Auckland inmates have to be moved to and from other prisons around New Zealand. This has financial and operational costs. The transfer of remand prisoners from and back to Auckland when their trials are due to be held is expensive and disruptive.

“The new redevelopment will mean enhanced security for the public and staff by ensuring inmates will be in modern and secure cells. It will also create facilities for staff and visitors, and will allow the department to more effectively run rehabilitation programmes to reduce reoffending.

“The new prison will ensure greater security without razor wire or guard towers.

“An innovative double skin exterior cladding for the new building will ensure that it merges visually with surrounding commercial buildings. It also ensures that inmates are visually and audibly separated from the public.

“Construction work on the prison will begin in July this year,” Phil Goff said.


ENDS

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