A $1.35 million government pay out to prisoners and staff at Waikeria prison is being labelled as a hasty decision by Māori Party co-leader, Rawiri Waititi.
More than 800 Waikeria prisoners and up to 190 staff will receive compensation for personal property such as mobile phones, cultural and religious taonga that were destroyed in the fire following a riot that broke out on December 29.
The 17 prisoners who were charged over the riot will not receive compensation.
Waititi, who was instrumental in ending the four-day standoff, believes the Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has ‘rushed’ the decision as a judicial process is still in play for those inmates who were involved in the protest.
“So this again shows their value in this particular process, by being sidelined and disregarded by the minister and by this particular department. I think the minister has an obligation to ensure that things are not done prematurely … (and) that everybody benefits in this particular process,” says Waititi.
Minister Davis says the ex gratia payment aligns with Corrections’ Hōkai Rangi strategy and supports well-being.
But Waititi maintains well-being must be reflected in everything the ministry does including better investment in healthcare for inmates who have health or mental health conditions due to alcohol and drugs.
“I would rather my taxes go into a ‘by Māori, for Māori, to Māori’ approach. It is time for Māori to take on the solutions because we are the solutions.”