Govt to consider $1bil prison expansion

The government is considering whether or not to go ahead with a proposed $1bil expansion of South Waikato's Waikeria Prison to accommodate New Zealand's growing prison population.

The expansion would make room for an extra three thousand inmates.  However, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis told Te Kāea last year that he didn't want to build more prisons and instead aimed to reduce the number of inmates.

Davis previously said, “I think that money should be used to help them and reduce offending out in the community- to prevent people going to jail.”

New Zealand prisons have just 300 more beds available to accommodate the country's growing prison population.

Davis says the Government is looking at solutions.

“Cabinet is going to put our thoughts into action and decide whether or not we want to go forward with the expansion or not.”

50% of the prison population is Māori.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is on record saying the high Māori incarceration rates are a Crown failure which has to be addressed.

During her speech in Waitangi, Ardern said, "It's the incarceration of the Māori people, disproportionately to everyone else.  That is the distance between us. And so long as that exists, we have failed in our partnership."

A decision on whether or not the expansion will take place is expected to be made next month.