National | Department of Corrections

Calls grow for Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis to 'front up' on Waikeria Prison

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis in 2018 discussing government plans for a new 600-bed facility at Waikeria Prison to relieve pressure on the growing prison population.  Photo / File

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis is again being called upon to "front up" on the Waikeria Prison standoff.

Earlier this week, Māori Party co-leader and Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi said Davis needed to step in to resolve the issue immediately.

“The Minister for Corrections championed the same issue in 2015 when he visited Christmas Island to advocate for prisoners who were subjected to similar conditions as our men at Waikeria.”

Now, National Party leader Judith Collins is making a similar demand, after a spokesperson for Davis said the minister would allow Corrections to resolve the matter.

"Kelvin Davis needs to front up and explain how this loss of control happened and what he’s going to do to fix it. He was perfectly happy to crow about prisons in opposition but now that he’s in charge, he’s nowhere to be seen," Collins said in a social media post Saturday afternoon.

Let’s be clear. Mass destruction of taxpayer-funded property, assaulting Corrections staff and hoarding weapons is not a...

Posted by Judith Collins on Friday, 1 January 2021

Earlier today, Corrections provided an update on the prison situation.

"The prisoner disorder incident at Waikeria Prison remains ongoing today, with the group of 16 prisoners continuing to light significant fires overnight. The incident is contained within the secure perimeter of the ‘top jail’ facility and there is no risk to the safety of the public," the Corrections spokesperson said in a statement.

"We are absolutely committed to ensuring that this incident is resolved safely. There are multiple risks involved, including the structural integrity of the fire-damaged buildings, the weapons and equipment available to the prisoners, the toxicity of burnt building materials, and the violence being offered by the prisoners.

"Negotiations with the group are ongoing, and specialist Corrections staff are being closely supported by Police with this. While we are not prepared to comment on the specifics of our negotiations or response, the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved is paramount."

The spokesperson said prisoners who surrender would have access to kaumātua and other support.

"The prisoners have had multiple opportunities to surrender and we continue to urge them to take up this option. We do not want the men, our staff or other emergency services staff to be hurt. As prisoners surrender they will be secured, searched, provided with food and water, assessed by medical staff and will have access to kaumātua and other support. We have a duty of care to these men, and it is likely that they will remain in our custody for a number of years to come. We remain grateful for the support we have received from local iwi and kaumātua."

Waititi who visited Waikeria Prison on Thursday night said the prisoners had made it clear that it was not a riot but a protest for their human rights.

“They are protesting for their right to basic human needs. The environment in Waikeria prison is dehumanising. The water they are expected to drink is brown. They don’t get clothing or appropriate bedding. They are expected to wash their clothes in the yard shower,” he said in a statement.

“This situation is indicative of a dysfunctional Justice system that has been failing our people for years

“Until resources can be devolved to Māori to design and implement by Māori for Māori approaches, things are going to get worse.

“For a Government who prides itself on kindness, they have allowed for an inhumane environment to fester. They are willingly allowing for breaches of basic human rights to occur. They need to sort it out now," Waititi said.