3 January 2021
Please attribute to Jeanette Burns, Incident Controller:
The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison remains ongoing, with 16 prisoners remaining in the ‘top jail’ facility.
I appreciate that this event is significantly distressing for the family and friends of the prisoners involved. We have no information to suggest that any of them are hurt. We are continuing to urge the men to surrender to staff. We do not want the men, our staff or other emergency services staff to be harmed.
Anyone who isn’t calling for the men to immediately peacefully surrender is putting their safety at risk, alongside the safety of our staff and emergency services.
Anyone who is in contact with the group should encourage them to surrender, and assure them that they will be provided with food and water, assessed by medical staff and have access to kaumatua and other support when they do.
The prisoners have continued to light fires within the facility overnight, make threats toward our staff and Police and throw debris at them from the roof of the buildings.
We are concerned about the structural integrity of the burned buildings and the potential for them to collapse, and the toxicity of burned building materials. Alongside this we know that there are tensions between members of the group, they have access to weapons and they may have taken drugs from the dispensary.
The situation remains incredibly volatile, and our options for intervention are limited due to the dangers present. Despite this, we are continuing to work closely with Police to ensure that every opportunity to resolve the incident with the intention of minimising harm to anyone is considered and acted on.
We have a duty of care to these men, and it is likely that they will remain in our custody for a number of years to come. Their point has been made – we are currently building a new facility to replace the existing top jail facility, which will be completed in 2022.
- Reports that electricity and water are not functioning in all other units of Waikeria Prison are incorrect. Electricity and water remain functional in these units.
- Prisoner payphones, and all other phones at the prison, are currently not functioning. We appreciate that this will be worrying and inconvenient for both prisoners and their family and friends. We are working to resolve this urgently, but can provide assurance that all prisoners in other units are safe and well in the prison.
- Due to the ongoing nature of the incident, we will not be commenting on any specific questions on the negotiations underway or the operational tactics staff may or may not be using. Please be aware, Corrections staff do not carry or use firearms.
Saturday 2 January 2021
The prisoner disorder incident at Waikeria Prison remains ongoing today, with the group of 16 prisoners continuing to light significant fires overnight. The incident is contained within the secure perimeter of the ‘top jail’ facility and there is no risk to the safety of the public.
Fire and Emergency NZ, Police and St John remain at the prison and are working closely with Corrections staff.
We are absolutely committed to ensuring that this incident is resolved safely. There are multiple risks involved, including the structural integrity of the fire-damaged buildings, the weapons and equipment available to the prisoners, the toxicity of burnt building materials, and the violence being offered by the prisoners. Negotiations with the group are ongoing, and specialist Corrections staff are being closely supported by Police with this. While we are not prepared to comment on the specifics of our negotiations or response, the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved is paramount.
The prisoners have had multiple opportunities to surrender and we continue to urge them to take up this option. We do not want the men, our staff or other emergency services staff to be hurt. As prisoners surrender they will be secured, searched, provided with food and water, assessed by medical staff and will have access to kaumatua and other support. We have a duty of care to these men, and it is likely that they will remain in our custody for a number of years to come. We remain grateful for the support we have received from local iwi and kaumatua.
Welfare support is being made available to staff on site, including from our welfare officers, psychology team and kaumatua. Corrections officers come to work every day to help people in prison make positive changes to their lives and keep New Zealanders safe. The conditions that they are currently working in and the level of violence involved has had an impact on them and is also distressing for their family members and friends.
Friday 1 January 2021
The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison remains ongoing, with negotiation with the 16 prisoners in the ‘top jail’ facility continuing. The incident is contained within the secure perimeter of the facility and there is no threat to the safety of the public.
The prisoners have continued to cause extensive damage to the facility, including forcibly accessing restricted areas including a room used to store tactical equipment that includes power tools, shields, batons and body armour. They have also constructed a number of makeshift weapons that we believe they are planning to use against staff, and accessed a medical dispensary where controlled drugs are stored.
While the group state that they are protesting conditions at the prison and not rioting, their actions are clearly violent.
The buildings within the facility are significantly damaged and we have concerns about their structural integrity. In addition, we know that there are tensions between the prisoners themselves which are likely to result in violence, evidenced by the assault carried out on the man who surrendered last night. We remain concerned that the men are putting themselves at significant risk by remaining where they are.
Yesterday the prisoners agreed with negotiators to surrender if they were able to speak with kaumatua. This was facilitated however did not resolve the situation. Later in the day the prisoners committed to surrendering if they could speak with MP Rawiri Waititi. This was also facilitated and did not resolve the situation. We have negotiated in good faith, and prisoners have defaulted on the commitments that they have made.
We have been approached by others who believe that they can resolve the incident, which we have declined. This remains a highly volatile and dangerous situation, complicated by the damage to the facility and the access to weapons that the prisoners have. We are not prepared to compromise the safety of staff responding to the incident, and highly trained staff with specialist skills will continue to negotiate with the prisoners. The prisoners aware that water will be provided to them on their surrender, along with further access to kaumatua. They have had multiple regular opportunities to comply with staff.
We continue to provide support for around 200 prisoners who were evacuated from the ‘top jail’ facility and transferred to other prison sites, and we are considering how else we can help them to maintain contact with their whanau and friends. Many have found the incident distressing, and are concerned about the impact of being transferred unexpectedly on their rehabilitation, employment and education progress.
Friday 1 January 2020
The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison is ongoing, with 16 men remaining non-compliant.
One prisoner surrendered to staff late yesterday afternoon. Prior to surrendering he was assaulted by the others, who attempted to prevent him from leaving.
The prisoners continued to light fires last night and cause further damage. They have also thrown objects at Corrections staff patrolling the area.
Yesterday the prisoners agreed with negotiators to surrender if they were able to speak with kaumatua. This was facilitated however did not resolve the situation.
Later in the day the prisoners committed to surrendering if they could speak with MP Rawiri Waititi. This was also facilitated and did not resolve the situation.
We have highly trained staff with specialist skills who are continuing to negotiate with the prisoners involved, supported by Police. We are not going to speculate on matters that are relevant to those negotiations.
Fire and Emergency NZ, Police and St John remain at the prison and are working closely with Corrections staff. We are grateful to them for their assistance, and also to the many Corrections staff who have responded bravely and professionally despite very challenging circumstances.
Thursday 31 December 2020
One prisoner involved in the prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison surrendered to staff late this afternoon and has been removed from the ‘top jail’ facility.
The prisoner was assessed and cleared by medical staff and is now speaking with Police. Police are responsible for determining whether charges are laid against anyone in relation to the incident.
We are not able to provide further information on the circumstances of his surrender. In the interests of safety and operational security, we will also not be providing any information on his specific management.
Negotiations with the remaining 16 prisoners are ongoing and we continue to encourage them to comply with instructions from staff.
Thursday 31 December 2020
The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison is ongoing, with 17 prisoners continuing to be non-compliant. The prisoners remain within the secure perimeter of the ‘top jail’ facility and there is no risk to public safety.
Overnight, the men agreed with negotiators to surrender if they were able to speak with kaumatua. An operation involving support from our Advanced Control and Restraint staff was planned to enable this to happen safely, however did not resolve the situation. We would like to express our thanks to the kaumatua for their efforts and willingness to assist with the safe resolution of the incident.
We are continuing to engage with the prisoners to encourage them to cease their action. We are concerned that they are putting themselves at significant risk by remaining where they are. Damage to the building is significant.
There has been no injury to staff or prisoners. Fire and Emergency NZ, Police and St John remain at the prison and are working closely with Corrections staff. We are grateful to them for their assistance, and also to the many Corrections staff who have responded bravely and professionally despite very challenging circumstances.
Yesterday around 200 prisoners who had been evacuated from the ‘top jail’ facility due to concerns for their safety and wellbeing were transferred to other prison sites. Following the reduction in the prison population we have capacity across the prison network to enable this to happen.
The men who have been moved are being provided with support to contact their family members. Mental health support is also being made available to them as a number have found the events of the last 48 hours traumatic. We will be looking to prioritise their reengagement with education, employment and rehabilitation activities that have been interrupted as a result of the incident. It is incredibly disappointing that the safety, wellbeing and progress of these men have been compromised by the actions of a small group.
Waikeria Prison is made up of a number of units spread across a large rural area. Around 500 prisoners remain onsite and all units are operating normally
Wednesday 30 December 2020
Four prisoners involved in a disorder event at Waikeria Prison yesterday surrendered to staff overnight, with 16 prisoners continuing to be non-compliant. The 16 prisoners remain within the secure perimeter of the ‘top jail’ facility.
There has been no loss of life or injury to staff or prisoners. Fire and Emergency NZ, Police and St John remain at the prison and are working closely with Corrections staff.
Late yesterday, 49 prisoners were evacuated from the ‘top jail’ facility to another unit in the prison. Overnight a further 163 men were temporarily moved to other locations within the prison. Throughout these movements the men were calm and compliant and understood that their safety and wellbeing was our top priority. The remainder of the prison, which is spread over a large rural area, was also calm.
Damage to the ‘top jail’ facility appears to be significant. While the condition of the building will need to be assessed, it is unlikely that prisoners will be accommodated there again. The facility was built in 1911 and is being replaced by a new facility being built at the prison which is scheduled to open in 2022.
Tuesday 29 December 2020
Corrections officers are continuing to negotiate with prisoners at Waikeria Prison involved in a disorder event today. Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Police and St John are at the prison offering their expertise and assistance. Specialist Advanced Control & Restraint teams are also on site, made up of staff from a range of prisons.
All prisoners are contained within the secure perimeter of the ‘top jail’ facility. There is no threat to the safety of the public. Staff are continuing to encourage the prisoners to cease their actions and comply with instructions.
19 prisoners have been sighted on the roof of the building. This includes those who were involved in lighting fires in a yard earlier today, along with several others who were able to get out of their cells with assistance. The prisoners have been able to access some parts of the building by breaching the roof space, however their movement inside the building is restricted by internal gates, barriers and secured doors.
There is a large amount of smoke around the building which is coming from mattresses set alight by the prisoners. While there is no imminent threat to safety, the decision has been made to evacuate 49 prisoners from one unit to elsewhere in the prison. There are around 230 prisoners in total in the ‘top jail’ facility and we will not hesitate to evacuate further prisoners if it becomes necessary in order to keep them safe. Following the reduction in the prison population we have capacity across the prison network to enable this to happen.
This is an ongoing incident, and staff at the prison are focused on resolving it quickly and safely.
29 December 2020
Corrections officers are negotiating with nine prisoners at Waikeria Prison who are refusing to comply with instructions from staff and damaging prison property.
Earlier this afternoon, prisoners lit several small fires in the exercise yard they were in. Fire and Emergency New Zealand attended, extinguished the fires and remain onsite.
There were around 20 prisoners in the yard when the fires were lit, however a number are not taking part in the incident.
We have comprehensive procedures for managing events of prisoner disorder. Our Advanced Control & Restraint teams with specialist capability are on standby to assist if necessary. Our top priority is to resolve the situation safely.
The prison remains locked down. The incident is contained, and there is no threat to the safety of the public.
29 December 2020
Fire and Emergency New Zealand are at Waikeria Prison to assist corrections officers to extinguish a fire in an exercise yard. There were around 20 prisoners using the yard at the time the fire was started.
The prison has been locked down as a precaution. The incident is contained, and there is no threat to the safety of the public.