The riots case: Waikeria prison was insured for the rampage of prisoners, but demolition costs exceed payment
Even an insurance payment of $ 4.5 million will not fully cover the cost of demolishing the former Waikeria Prison high security unit destroyed in a post-Christmas rampage by prisoners.
The six-day riot, which began on December 29, severely damaged the structural integrity of the 110-year-old facility, known colloquially as Top Jail.
It is understood that the inmates were protesting the dilapidated conditions and the Department of Corrections’ strategy for Maori. Rioters set fire to it and around 200 other prisoners had to be evacuated.
Seventeen men are now facing various charges in connection with the riot. Some of those charged are said to have links to international gangs.
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Photos taken from the air by Thing during the riot were shown rioters in folding chairs, while helmeted guards were seen carrying shields on the ground below. An entire wing, at least 100 meters long, seemed destroyed with the roof a network of tangled debris.
In response to inquiries made under the Official Information Act, Deputy Director General of Corrections Andrew Robertson confirmed to Thing that the 426 bed unit had been insured against riot and payment had been made.
“Corrections insurance policies provide compensation against a wide range of risks,” he said. “The property damage policy includes planned buildings by site and, in the case of the upper prison, provides demolition coverage of $ 4.5 million plus GST. “
In addition, the facilities and content and “business disruption” policies provided coverage valued at $ 12.5 million and $ 10 million, respectively.
“Insurance for prisons works the same as any other entity, house or business that has an insurance policy. Corrections pay an annual premium to rehabilitate the property if it is unexpectedly damaged due to fires, storms, floods, earthquakes, etc.
Robertson said the loss calculations supported insurance claims “at the limit of our coverage.”
The insurance collection process had progressed rapidly and was now complete, he said.
“Our intention is to demolish all buildings within the Top Jail perimeter and the proceeds from the insurance will help cover the cost of the demolition work.”
However, the cost of demolition was higher than the insurance product due to the complexity of the work and the specialized techniques required.
The overall cost of the riot had not been fully quantified. Certain costs remained to be established and other costs had been absorbed in the course of the day-to-day operations of the site, and therefore not separately identifiable.
The insurance payment did not cover any costs associated with police or emergency response to the riot.
Due to the required planning and consent process, the demolition of the Upper Prison will begin later this year, once a contract has been awarded.
Construction of a new $ 750 million, 500-bed facility, with an additional 100-bed mental health facility, is already well underway at a site adjacent to Waikeria.
It is due to be completed by the end of 2022, and open to inmates in 2023.
“We had previously recognized that the main Waikeria prison, opened in 1911, was no longer able to meet the needs of prisoners or staff,” Robertson said. “The new construction was launched in 2018 as a replacement. “
In a February presentation to Parliament’s Justice Select Committee, Corrections Director General Jeremy Lightfoot said the actual demands of the riots were vague and changed during the riot.
“It was clear to me actually that the activity was spontaneous and was something that was generated from the moment in frustration rather than whatever we had at the beginning or a reflection of the intelligence around us.”
The prison is 16 kilometers south of Te Awamutu and, before the riots, housed around 750 men with varying sentences ranging from minimum to high security.
Waikeria is the second oldest operational prison in the country, behind Invercargill which was opened in 1910.
It was New Zealand’s largest prison before a 2012 correctional overhaul that closed some of the country’s oldest prisons, including some units in Waikeria.
Independent inspectors who spent a week in Waikeria in 2017 identified many problems, including damp, dark cells where prisoners were sometimes locked up for up to 26 hours at a stretch.
The high-security facility was in “very poor condition”, according to inspectors, and its design made it very difficult for staff to actively monitor detainees.
Rioters haven’t been the only ones destroying Waikeria prison property in recent times. The rats have been accused of damaging underground fiber cables connected to the prison’s AVL unit, which is used by inmates to make audiovisual appearances in court.