Waikeria prison written off to the tune of up to $25m after riots

Author
Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Tue, 10 Aug 2021, 11:17AM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Waikeria prison written off to the tune of up to $25m after riots

Author
Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Tue, 10 Aug 2021, 11:17AM

The extensive damage caused by rioting inmates at the Waikeria prison early this year forced the Government to accept a multi-million-dollar write-down of the jail.

Newstalk ZB can reveal in May – four months after the riots – Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis received a report from officials, outlining the costs of the rampage.

For six days over the New Year, at least 17 inmates rioted causing widespread damage at the prison.

The men responsible for the destruction, who could face more prison time, said they were protesting conditions at the jail – a claimed Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis poured cold water over at the time.

The report, obtained under the official information act, does not explicitly give the cost of the destruction; that part has been redacted by officials.

But it does reveal the cost of writing off the damaged parts of the prison, due to a financial protocol.

That is, Ministers need to specifically sign-off any "proposals to dispose of assets with a carrying value of between $15 million and $25 million".

The report showed Davis agreed to the cost of the write-off.

The report listed a number of buildings damaged by the riots, and how much the write-off would cost for each one – although, like the overall cost, this has been redacted.

"Due to the extensive and irreparable damage caused by the fires, the prison lost use of these facilities and the 'top jail' is no longer able to be used," the report said.

National's corrections spokesman Simeon Brown said this is an incredibly large cost, which could have been avoided if Davis had acted sooner and stronger.

"The rioters were able to destroy an entire jail… they were given free rein over a period of six days while Kelvin Davis was missing in action."

At the time, Davis was criticized for not doing enough to quell the unrest.

But he rubbished Brown's claim, telling ZB it was "absolute nonsense".

He would not say how much the total write-off would cost, as it's "still being worked on by Corrections".

The "silver lining," he says, was the Government was already in the process of building a new, more modern prison just 800 meters down the road from the one written off.

"The prison was going to be decommissioned and demolished anyway – no one wants a riot, obviously, but that's why we are insured."

The cost of the write-off is not the first to be incurred due to the riots.

In June, Davis revealed the Government approved $1.35m to be paid to prisoners and staff at Waikeria Prison who lost belongings because of the riots.

That sum is divided into $1.3m for the more than 800 prisoners who lost possessions and up to $50,000 for up to 190 staff.

None of the 17 prisoners who have been charged in relation to the riot would receive any payment.