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Anger at prison go-ahead

SCOTT MORGAN
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2012

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Wiri men's prison has been given the go-ahead by the government but some community leaders are calling for a focus on the future.

The government has approved the $900 million, 960-bed facility despite an outcry from Manurewa community groups during the lengthy resource consent process.

The project is a public-private partnership between the government and several major companies.

It will be built by Fletcher Construction, run by private operator Serco and maintained by Spotless Facility Services, all operating under the title of Secure Future.

Mayor Len Brown says the Auckland Council had "stood with the local community in opposition to this project".

But now the decision has been made to proceed Mr Brown says the focus needs to shift to those who will be affected by the prison.

The Corrections Department will provide a development contribution of almost $750,000 and establish a social impacts fund of at least $250,000."This is a first and is the result of pressure from Auckland Council and the Manurewa Local Board," Mr Brown says.

"We will work with the local board and other interested parties to ensure that money is used to benefit the community."

Manurewa Local Board chairman Daniel Newman says last week's government announcement didn't come as a shock.

"I'm disappointed but not surprised."

The focus must now shift to how the prison will be managed, he says.

"My interest is how can we ensure maximum security so residents have peace of mind?"

Contractors from the Manurewa area should also be used in the project's construction and rehabilitation must be a top priority for prison management, he says.

Board member Colleen Brown, who chairs the Vision Manukau group that opposed the prison, says the decision is a blow for the community.

"I'm really outraged at the way the community has been treated by central government. We have to fight so hard to get so little."

Ms Brown had hoped the government would decide not to build the prison.

It makes no sense to build the facility when the prison population is declining, there is an ageing population and there are better ways to deal with some offenders in the community, she says.

Finance Minister Bill English says rehabilitation will be a big focus at the prison, with Serco in line for significant fines if it doesn't meet targets.

"We are confident the new prison will reduce reoffending, improve public safety and help improve performance across the entire prison system," Mr English says.

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- Manukau Courier

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