Millions of dollars wasted on poorly constructed prison cells, resulting in a terminated contract is yet another failure from Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Kelvin Davis has mismanaged the contract with Australian company Decmil from the beginning.
“The Minister may be trying to make Decmil the scapegoat now, but warning bells went off 18 months ago and he was well aware of their unsatisfactory performance when he chose to extend their contract by more than 600 beds.
“Staff had gone back to China to try and sort out those issues multiple times, costing thousands of dollars. Despite this, Corrections staff told the Justice Select Committee last December they were ‘very pleased’ with Decmil’s progress, even though they knew about damaged units, unforeseen costs and significant delays
“This project is now years down the line, Kiwi taxpayers are out of pocket and the Government has nothing substantial to show for it. It now looks as though Corrections will have to spend a further $30 million to find a new contractor.
“Kelvin Davis and Corrections are responsible for providing essential expansions of our prisons. Now there is no safety net should the prison population continue to grow as predicted and Kelvin Davis will have to continue to release prisoners early, putting our communities at risk.
“Kelvin Davis had plenty of time to take the lead and fix issues with the deal with Decmil, but at the last minute is cutting the contract. Kelvin Davis needs to front up and explain why he’s chosen only now to terminate the contract, and how much extra taxpayer money is going to be spent as a result.”
The Department of Corrections decision to release a prisoner on hunger strike is an alarming indicator of the culture that Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has built within the organisation, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Kelvin Davis has promised to reduce the prison population by 15 per cent in 30 years but it appears his plan is just to release as many offenders as possible. Now it seems you can get released from prison just by staging a protest.
“Corrections has released Frances Shaw rather than deal with a difficult prisoner and as a result we now have a recidivist offender with an extensive criminal record living in our community. Corrections should have dealt with Mr Shaw inside prison, rather than just releasing him.
“This decision sets a dangerous precedent and has essentially opened the floodgates.
“What tactics will prisoners try next to force Corrections’ hand? This is just one example of offenders taking advantage of Corrections’ prisoner focused, rather than justice and victim focused, approach.
“What does it say about the state of our justice system when even the prisoner himself didn’t think he should have been released?
“This Government’s soft on crime attitude has filtered down into Corrections and it’s reacting to it.
“Kelvin Davis’ reforms haven’t worked and now he has turned to early release as a way to meet his arbitrary prison population target. Yet pushing for this only results in offenders not serving their time, victims are not being prioritised and more dangerous individuals are living in our communities.
“It is clear that Kelvin Davis is desperate to reduce the prison population by any means necessary and it’s our communities that are paying the price.”
The National Party is today proposing tougher measures for prisoners to get parole so that the privilege is not abused, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Parole is not a right. If you have committed a crime and you are sentenced to prison you shouldn’t rely on early release unless you’ve done the hard yards to deserve it.
“National is proposing a convicted murderer who refuses to reveal the location of a body should be denied parole. Family and friends who have lost a loved one to murder have been through enough. Not knowing where the body of their loved one is and not being able to lay them to rest is cruel. A similar law is currently being considered in the UK.
“We’re also proposing offenders who don’t have NCEA Level 2 literacy and numeracy requirements shouldn’t be eligible for early release. People who have NCEA Level 2 are more likely to go on to lead better lives and are less likely to commit further crimes.
“The majority of prisoners have limited education or work experience. A high percentage of prisoners have no formal qualifications and less than half of them were in paid work before going to prison.
“Upskilling prisoners will ensure they have a better chance of not returning to prison. This is part of National’s Social Investment Approach, which targets investment in people’s lives where it’s most needed.
“We believe there should be increased support for prisoners when they are released back into the community so they are less likely to victimise more people. We’ll also look at whether prisoners on remand should have better access to treatment for mental health and addiction earlier.
“National is the largest and most popularly supported party in Parliament. We’re doing the work in Opposition so we’re ready to hit the ground running in 2020. We’re also the party of law and order. The current Government wants to lower the prison population but has no plan to reduce crime. We will ensure criminals are punished for committing crimes, but also that prisoners are rehabilitated so they go on to lead productive lives.”
This Government has taken its soft on crime approach to a new level, now refusing to call people in prison prisoners, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“In an absurd move, Corrections is now calling prisoners ‘men in our care’ or ‘clients’. This is ridiculous.
“The new language has come out of the Government’s new strategy Hōkai Rangi and shows just how delusional this Government and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis really are. If someone is sent to prison it’s because they have committed a serious crime, they are not there to be ‘cared for’ by Corrections.
“If you do the crime, you should do the time. Going to prison is a punishment and shouldn’t be treated as a holiday.
“Kelvin Davis is focused on prisoners, not victims. He’s more interested in reducing the prison population than he is on the safety of New Zealanders.
“Kelvin Davis is the Minister responsible for this department. It allowed the man accused of killing 51 people in the Christchurch terror attacks to send inflammatory and intolerable views in several letters, and released double murderer Jason Reihana without telling victims’ families.
“There are clearly serious issues within this department and Kelvin Davis needs to stand up and sort them out.”
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has created a culture of leniency in our prison system which puts prisoners ahead of victims and public safety, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“New Zealanders confidence in Corrections will rightly be eroding after revelations that dangerous prisoners with extreme views have been able to send inflammatory letters.
“The alleged Christchurch gunman is arguably the most high-profile and dangerous prisoner New Zealand has ever seen. New Zealanders should have been able to assume that Corrections, under the guidance of their Minister, would have ensured every interaction he had was recorded.
“The alleged gunman’s letter, sent to a Russian address, that set off this train of events reinforces the attitude of the Government. Whether it’s giving prisoners the right to vote, to being on the side of prisoners in their assaults on prison officers, the Government has set a culture of acceptance of prisoner demands and a lack of authority in the system.
“New Zealanders will be surprised to hear that the man accused of killing 51 people is allowed outside daily to exercise, is delivered a range of news articles each day, and is allowed visitors and phone calls.
“We’ve now heard that another white supremacist prisoner had also been an active writer publishing his intolerable views. Overseas advice given to Corrections on how to manage such situations hadn’t been followed.
“The Minister is responsible for this culture. It is his creation. Instead of being vigilant in this high profile case, we have seen the opposite. We have seen a culture of the prisoner is right and not the system. This fundamentally reflects the Minister’s view that no one should be in prison. He has repeatedly said he wants fewer prisoners, but has no plan to reduce crime.
“The Government has tried to cover up the failures over the past few days with apologies, unnecessary law reforms and dumping of information. There are laws already in place that Corrections should have followed but didn’t.
“The Minister can apologise all he wants but it won’t fix his settings of a prisoner friendly Corrections system.”
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis should have sought assurances his department was taking every step possible to keep the public safe from the alleged Christchurch gunman, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“A good Minister would have asked from day one what was happening around correspondence, visits and prison status. This should have been monitored weekly by the Minister so Corrections knew how seriously it should have been taking this.
“Five letters is not a one off mistake, it is incompetence. A Minister is responsible for making sure their department is taking all necessary steps.
“Mr Davis has said this morning that New Zealand has never had a prisoner like this. Given that, he should have questioned his officials as soon as he was locked up about what procedures they had in place and been kept regularly updated.
“Mr Davis says he’s now looking at a law change. The reality is, there are already laws in place which should have been used to stop this from happening.
“Mr Davis now needs to ensure there is help and support in place for the victims of the shootings who may have been re-traumatised by this news.”
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis should be demanding an immediate explanation from his Corrections officials about how the alleged Christchurch gunman was able to send an inflammatory letter from inside maximum security prison, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“This man is accused of carrying out one of the most heinous crimes in New Zealand history. New Zealanders will be horrified that Corrections allowed him to send a letter which includes a call to action and has subsequently been posted online.
“The Minister is now refusing to comment – he owes the victims of this crime an immediate apology. New Zealanders need assurances from Mr Davis that Corrections will ensure this can’t happen again.
“Corrections has acknowledged this letter should have been withheld. The rights of the victims in this case and respect for them should be put above everything else.”
Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has said he doesn’t know what impact the Government’s latest flagship law and order policy will have, and there are no measures on whether it will be effective, National’s Corrections spokesperson David Bennett says.
“Mr Davis confirmed this morning that he doesn’t know what impact the Government’s Māori Pathway pilot at Ngawha and Hawke’s Bay prisons will have on crime. When asked what effect it will have over the next three years, Mr Davis couldn’t answer.
“This is $100 million of taxpayers’ money, New Zealanders deserve to know whether this money is being spent effectively. But the Minister can’t even explain to Kiwis how much he expects reoffending to reduce, or by how much he expects the prison population to reduce by as a result of his policy.
“National focuses on policies driven by data because we know that is how you improve outcomes for New Zealanders. The Government has at its disposal the same resources we had, so it should be able to project what impact this programme will have.
“This is another example of a lazy, incompetent Government throwing money around and walking away, rather than looking at targeted interventions to reduce harm. If it was truly focussed on programmes and actions that work, Mr Davis would be able to tell us what the Government expects from this intervention.
“This is a Government that claimed the Budget showed specific measurable outcomes like reducing crime and reoffending. Mr Davis doesn’t know whether his programmes will do either.
“National stands unashamedly on the side of victims while ensuring we safely and effectively reduce crime and reoffending.”
Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage should release the legal information she received before controversially deciding to block Oceana Gold’s Overseas Investment Office application in Waihi, National’s spokesperson for Land Information David Bennett says.
“The decision to decline the application for Oceana Gold to purchase 178 hectares of rural land for a new tailings reservoir near Waihi was ideologically driven and did not take into account the significant economic benefits.
“Even the Associate Finance Minister described the project as having ‘substantial and identifiable benefit’ as Oceana Gold have a record of adding $373m to our economy in 2016, and this project would add 360 jobs with an average miner’s wage of $120,000.
“The Minister should release the advice she received before making her decision on this case, it’s in the public interest.”
Eugenie Sage’s admission that she went against official advice when declining OceanaGold’s OIO application shows the lack of consistency in her decision making, National’s Land Information spokesperson David Bennett says.
“The Minister revealed in Parliament today that her official advice directed her to approve the application, but she ignored it.
“This came after the Associate Finance Minister even described the project as having ‘substantial and identifiable benefit’.
“Clearly she values her own ideology above her official’s and colleague’s advice, but when 350 jobs and $1.5b in export earnings over the nine year project duration are on the line, people deserve for decisions to be fair and objective.
“The Minister’s personal views are clouding her judgement as a Minister and costing New Zealand jobs and economic development.
“Potential future applicants will be apprehensive and can’t have any certainty when she continues to make decisions based on her own whim rather than any official advice.
“The tests set out by the Minister of Finance are there for a reason, and it’s her responsibility to New Zealand to implement them rather than relying on her own personal values system.”