Matawhāiti Residence – Public Protection Orders

Lindon Pullan
Manager Psychological Services (Canterbury North), Department of Corrections

Andrew Burger
Manager, Matawhāiti Residence

Author biographies:
Lindon Pullan has a close working relationship with Matawhāiti, including being chair for the Matawhāiti Steering Group. Lindon started working for the Department as a psychologist in 2000 and was involved in the early implementation of the extended supervision legislation, including providing training to staff nationally. He has worked within the Department and across community support organisations to assist the management of and intervention for individuals who have complex needs, including disabilities, and who have offended. Lindon has provided consultation advice to Matawhāiti regarding clinical and operational issues, and has been active in the development of the specialist Matawhāiti model of care.

Andrew Burger has a legal background and has worked variously as an attorney-at-law and District Court Judge in South Africa, and as a barrister and solicitor in New Zealand and Australia. Andrew was previously a director at both the Auckland District Law Society and the New Zealand Law Society. In January 2010, Andrew moved to Victoria, Australia, to manage the newly created Corella Place, a world first post-sentence sex offender management facility. The number of offenders at this facility increased from 15 to over 70 under Andrew’s leadership, with the offenders spread over three campuses and with 100 staff. Andrew returned to New Zealand in August 2016 to manage Matawhāiti Residence in Christchurch.


Matawhāiti[1] is New Zealand’s national civil detention secure facility for people detained under the Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Act 2014. It is located in the precincts of Christchurch Men’s Prison, but situated outside the prison itself on one hectare of land. Under the Act, a Public Protection Order (PPO) can be imposed by the High Court under civil rather than criminal legislation. The order allows for the detention, management, and support of individuals who have served a finite prison sentence, but still pose a very high risk of imminent and serious offending, and for whom no other regulated oversight, such as long term parole or extended supervision, would be available or adequate.

The first PPO was imposed by the Christchurch High Court on 21 December 2016, and to date the Department has completed 34 health assessment reports on 14 eligible individuals who were considered by the cross-agency PPO board. This has resulted in 10 applications to the High Court, and there are now three residents in the facility with one under appeal. Individuals not considered eligible for a PPO are also considered for an Extended Supervision Order (ESO) application. An Extended Supervision Order requires people to be monitored for a period of up to 10 years and is managed by Community Corrections. Individuals on a PPO are residents, not prisoners, and as such the Department has developed new processes and a fit-for-purpose operating model for Matawhāiti.

The model of care

The Matawhāiti challenge is to balance the need for public safety with the residents’ needs for rehabilitation and personal satisfaction in a meaningful living routine. To this end, staff explore rehabilitation options in co-operation with the residents. Matawhāiti’s practices are remedial, with a prosocial and therapeutic ethos, so as to help residents who are vulnerable to distress, impulsiveness, or opportunity to understand social norms and acquire personal skills that they do not have. The goal is, over time, to support a change to residents’ cycle of sexual and/or violent offending and prepare them for a future of safe and appropriately supported living in a community setting.

Matawhāiti Residence

Opened in January 2017, Matawhāiti has a 24/7 staffing model and is designed to accommodate up to 24 residents. It is currently being increased from a six-bed to a 12-bed facility. Residents are accommodated in self-contained units, with each resident’s unit offering a living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and laundry facilities, with a small garden and veranda area.

A multi-purpose resident community and staff administration building contains a large indoor communal area, courtyard area, shared kitchen, rooms for interviews and private visits, and separate staff and site management spaces. The administration building and residential units are surrounded by open grassed areas, an outdoor patio, a walking track, planter boxes and flower gardens. These provide for residents’ outdoor recreation and exercise needs.

A resident’s management and progress within Matawhāiti is the responsibility of Residence Manager Andrew Burger who managed Corella Place in Victoria before moving to New Zealand to take up his current role. He is supported by the Matawhāiti Steering Group, and the Matawhāiti Case Advisory Panel, both of which are multi-disciplinary. External oversight and monitoring is provided by independent PPO inspectors and the Ombudsman, the annual Review Panel, and a five yearly High Court hearing.

Legislative intent and oversight

The objective of the Act is to protect the community from the almost certain harm that could occur if individuals deemed to meet the criteria were not given very robust oversight and support in a contained environment. However, as a civil order, the detention is protective (of the community and resident) rather than punitive. In this regard it is similar to an order under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act or the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003, both of which need to be considered during an application for PPO.

To meet the threshold for a PPO, an individual must be over 18 and have served a prison sentence for a serious sexual or violent offence, or be subject to the most intensive form of extended supervision order. They must also continue to pose a very high risk of imminent and serious sexual or violent offending and be assessed as having:

  • an intense drive or urge to offend sexually or violently
  • limited self-regulatory capacity, evidenced by general impulsiveness, high emotional reactivity, and inability to cope with, or manage, stress and difficulties
  • absence of understanding or concern for the impact of their offending on actual or potential victims
  • poor interpersonal relationships or social isolation.

The Court is supported in considering the application by two psychological health assessment reports provided by the Department, as well as any further reports and information that the Court, or counsel, request.

PPOs are granted by the High Court for an indefinite period, however, the existing orders are reviewed annually by a PPO Review Panel. The Review Panel is chaired by a High Court Justice, and considers the resident’s management plan and support, and if there is sufficient information to indicate a resident’s risk has reduced. At least every five years a full High Court review is undertaken. Residents can, at any time, request that the High Court review their PPO.

Residents who are found by the High Court to no longer meet the test to be subject to a PPO will be released and placed on a protective supervision order, under which they will be managed in the community and subject to intensive monitoring. If a resident cannot be safely managed on a PPO they may be ordered by the Court to be detained on a prison detention order in a prison for the minimum time necessary.


Matawhāiti currently has 10 permanent staff – a residence manager, a senior residence supervisor, four resident supervisors who case manage the residents, four assistant resident supervisors, and 13 on-call staff. In keeping with the civil nature of the legislation, staff are not corrections officers. Staff are trained to manage residents safely while supporting their personal needs. Staff are also trained in positive behaviour support, conflict management, management of aggression or potential aggression, deception and manipulation, legislative functions and powers, and rehabilitation models.

The statutory role of staff is to protect the community by supervising and supporting residents with their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. The rehabilitation framework used is a strengths-based approach which is responsive to each resident’s particular interests, abilities, and aspirations. The framework also assists the resident supervisors and each resident to collaboratively develop and modify individualised management plans. These plans guide activities that recognise the resident’s physical and mental health requirements, cultural needs, existing skills and capacity to learn, rehabilitation and reintegration needs and aspirations for personal development. As such, the residents are supported to lead a purposeful and progressive life.

Staff are required under the legislation to, as necessary and appropriate, give lawful directions, manage behaviour or conflict, search, conduct alcohol and drug testing, monitor telephone calls, monitor written communications, escort residents into the community and manage emergency responses.

The residents

The PPO legislation requires that residents have as many civil rights, and as much autonomy and quality of life as possible, taking into consideration the safety and wellbeing of themselves, other residents, staff, and the running of the facility. Residents are given the opportunity to have a say in the facility’s house rules to enable its positive functioning and the creation and maintenance of a residential community.

Residents are, under the Act, able to earn money from work on site, to obtain legal advice, to vote, participate in recreational, educational and cultural activities within the residence, to receive and send written communications, access media and information, receive visitors and communicate with people outside the residence, to receive medical and rehabilitative treatment, to have their cultural identity respected and to receive benefits through Work and Income.

Resident activities

Matawhāiti’s operational strategy requires staff to support and enable residents to adopt socially appropriate norms. When a resident arrives at Matawhāiti a needs assessment is undertaken based on a psychological assessment and a safety assurance plan. The resident’s risks and foundational skills are assessed in terms of personal responsibility, communication, decision-making, budgeting, personal hygiene, problem solving, self esteem and independence.

This assessment is used to support the residents to develop as much independence in daily living as possible. For example, residents buy their own groceries online, and cook their own meals. Weekly planners will typically include religious and cultural sessions, shopping online, receiving visitors (whānau and professional support persons), education, recreation (table tennis, exercise programmes, board games, reading, etc.), and projects (horticulture, woodwork, landscaping, music, art, secure online learning suite, etc.). This aligns with the Good Lives Model philosophy, which advocates that every intervention is an activity that adds to a resident’s repertoire of personal functioning.

Residents who request offending rehabilitation may also meet with a treatment psychologist, receive counselling, or meet with an occupational therapist. Residents choose their own community-based medical doctors and dentists, and attend Court fixtures in the community under escort of supervising staff.

Closing remarks

Matawhāiti is still relatively new and only a very small number of individuals live  there. The first full review of the operation of Matawhāiti is scheduled for July 2019 and will assist integrity and planning for the future. The Department takes its duty of care very seriously and will continue to ensure the community is kept safe, while at the same time upholding the rights of the residents to engage in rehabilitation and develop as much independence as possible while fulfilling the requirements of their PPOs.

[1] Matawhāiti means to be cautious, prudent, careful and tactful.