National | Kelvin Davis

Waikeria Prison: Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis 'extremely glad it's over'

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has acknowledged the role tikanga played in ending the Waikeria Prison standoff in a media conference Sunday afternoon.

Leading out, Davis said there was relief the dispute was over and that everyone was safe.

"We are extremely glad it's over," he said. "Critically, everyone is safe."

Recognising Corrections staff who secured the site and kept other prisoners safe, the minister then acknowledged the role tikanga performed in assisting end the dispute.

"A tikanga approach was undertaken in drawing this event to a conclusion," he said.

Davis also recognised the significant contribution tangata whenua made in resolving the six-day incident.

"I especially want to thank tangata whenua and local kaumātua who played an important role in negotiations and who helped to end the situation peacefully."

Criticised in some quarters for not fronting the matter especially as it began to escalate, the minister said he had been continuously across the incident and active in ensuring it was properly resolved.

"I have been active behind the scenes in the management of this event throughout the incident. I received regular briefings hourly most days," he said.

"It was important to leave the containment of the riot to Corrections staff who are highly trained with specialist skills in managing such events and have clear operational guidelines for how to respond."

Davis, who framed the incident as a riot rather than as a protest as prisoners had sought to portray it, said the reasons for the incident were not as prisoners would have people believe. "[It] is my view that the underlying reasons for their actions are not what they claim."

In a statement released shortly after the surrender, the minister said the prisoners had been attention-seeking and people had bought into this.

“These men wanted political attention, and unfortunately those who waded into the issue in order to generate headlines only helped to embolden them, extend the duration of the event, and increase the risk to safety."

The minister said there are legitimate avenues for prisoners to raise concerns about their conditions. "These prisoners used none of those avenues and never raised any issues prior to this event."

“No one should glorify the actions of these prisoners. They damaged property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and they put their own lives and the health and safety of staff and other prisoners at risk.

“There is never an excuse for resorting to violence and destruction," he said.

“I made the decision not to bow to the demands of these men nor make public comment that would have simply opened up political negotiation with them and achieved nothing to bring the event to a safe resolution.'