Ngawha chosen as Northland Prison site

  • Clem Simich

Northland Prison to be Built at Ngawha Strong Conservation Focus for New Facility

The new Northland Regional Prison will be built at Ngawha, east of Kaikohe, Corrections Minister Clem Simich announced today.

The prison will be constructed next year on a site located one kilometre off State Highway 12, and is due to open in 2002. The new prison will employ around 150 new staff and will inject $10 million annually into the Far North economy - in addition to $40 million of investment during the construction phase.

"I am pleased to announce Ngawha will be the site of the new Northland Prison, which I believe will bring strong economic and social benefits to the Far North," Mr Simich said.

The final site was arrived at after 74 potential sites were narrowed down to a shortlist of three. Two of these were located in the Mangakahia Valley west of Whangarei - at Hilton Road and Blagrove Road - and the third at Ngawha. Over the past four months the sites have been subject to ongoing assessments by way of technical reports, public submissions and input from tangata whenua.

Mr Simich said the final decision meant balancing many factors.

"All three sites were similar in technical terms, and the Resource Management Act requires me to take a number of matters into account. I believe I have got the balance right with this decision."

"From a construction point of view alone all three sites were workable building platforms, with Hilton Road slightly more favourable. But unlike the Mangakahia Valley, locating the prison at Ngawha is likely to have strong economic and social benefits for the area."

"The Ngawha site is in many ways a win-win solution: it's not only a suitable site, but the community will benefit. I have instructed my Department to work closely with the community to ensure those benefits are maximised."

Mr Simich said the Northland Regional Prison would have a strong focus on conservation by protecting kiwi and other endangered species. Predators have reduced kiwi call numbers in Northland by an average of 10% annually since 1995.

"Corrections intends to work with the Department of Conservation and other local interests to provide a safe natural habitat for kiwi and other endangered species around the Ngawha site, as part of the Government's ongoing commitment to conservation."

The two departments already actively work together on many projects around the country, such as Project Crimson (growing pohutukawa seedlings at Auckland and Waikeria Prisons), and numerous periodic detention projects like bush track upgrades and native tree replanting on Browns Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

"The Northland Prison will enable inmates to learn new skills while repaying some of their debt to society, by putting something back into their local environment," Mr Simich said.

The purpose of building the Northland Regional Prison is to accommodate inmates from around the region closer to their families, which will aid their rehabilitation. It will house approximately 300 medium- to low-security inmates, with a small number of cells for maximum security inmates. There will be safe cells for vulnerable inmates, a specialist stand-alone youth unit for under 17-year olds, and facilities focusing specifically on the needs of Maori inmates.

The facility will have low-rise, campus-style buildings visually screened from surrounding areas and passing traffic. The prison buildings will only occupy a small portion of the total site and will be enclosed within a fence.

The prison will be built and owned by the Crown, however public and private companies will be invited to tender for the contract to manage the new facility. Mr Simich said he was encouraged by the proactive stance of some Northland iwi in building partnerships with potential tenderers, as input from local Maori would be vital in ensuring the new prison was a success.

The Minister will shortly issue a Notice of Requirement to "designate" the new site, which is then lodged with the Far North District Council, which will consider the application under the Resource Management Act.