Prison builders camp on the move

Waikato Times - - News - Libby Wil­son libby.wil­son@stuff.co.nz

Prison builders won’t be liv­ing on a cen­tral O¯ toro­hanga re­serve, but the mayor hopes they’ll find an­other spot in the district.

A piece of Is­land Re­serve – not far from the King Coun­try town’s num­ber one rugby field – was be­ing eyed for a 300-per­son work­ers’ vil­lage.

Un­der that plan, trades­peo­ple work­ing on a new 600-bed fa­cil­ity at Waik­e­ria Prison would have lived there, but CPB Con­trac­tors now says the site’s too small.

It’s good news for those who didn’t want 300 peo­ple on their doorstep, but lo­cal busi­nesses want the camp, and po­ten­tial ex­tra cus­tomers, nearby.

That could still hap­pen. ‘‘What’s hap­pened with the re­serve is the site it­self was too small,’’ O¯ toro­hanga District Mayor Max Bax­ter said. ‘‘So [coun­cil staffers and CPB are] just see­ing what other op­por­tu­ni­ties there are within and sur­round­ing O¯ toro­hanga.’’

If they don’t find one right for the planned three-year stay they will have to look out­side the district, he said.

CPB had been look­ing around town with coun­cil staffers on Wed­nes­day, he said, seek­ing a spot large enough close to town, and where any ef­fect on neigh­bours could be min­imised.

‘‘The same thing we were at­tempt­ing to do at Is­land Re­serve but, un­for­tu­nately, peo­ple were throw­ing their arms in the air be­fore we even had the chance to have that dis­cus­sion.’’

A coun­cil state­ment said CPB de­cided Is­land Re­serve wasn’t big enough for com­mu­nal build­ings, such as a gym and din­ing hall.

‘‘CPB are now look­ing closer at other op­tions they have been made aware of since the mat­ter has been made pub­lic,’’ the state­ment said.

The Is­land Re­serve pro­posal had shocked some nearby res­i­dents, who strug­gled to imag­ine the rugby-warm-up and dog-walk­ing zone fill­ing with 300 new neigh­bours. Min­utes from a late Oc­to­ber coun­cil meet­ing state that Phal­lyn Ran­gi­taawa pre­sented sig­na­tures of res­i­dents op­pos­ing the pro­posal, and Michaela Ran­gi­taawa-Schofield said there would be a Treaty of Wai­tangi in­junc­tion if the work­ers’ camp went ahead.

How­ever, Neville Gadd – an O¯ toro­hanga Com­mu­nity Board mem­ber but speak­ing on his own be­half – sup­ported it, partly be­cause of the ex­tra men­tal health fa­cil­i­ties the prison ex­ten­sion would bring to the Waikato.

While there’s an el­e­ment of re­lief for those who didn’t like the Is­land Re­serve pro­posal, Mayor Max Bax­ter said, there’s not for busi­ness own­ers.

One busi­ness per­son rang him of­fer­ing sup­port to bring the work­ers’ camp to town, be­cause their busi­ness was at risk of clos­ing down if there wasn’t a change.

Bax­ter didn’t want to name the per­son but said he ex­pected more of those calls, as there were prob­a­bly a few ‘‘just hang­ing on in hope and be­lief that CPB comes to O¯ toro­hanga with this work­ers’ vil­lage’’. CPB Con­trac­tors de­clined to com­ment. The group will de­sign and build the new prison fa­cil­ity, as part of a con­sor­tium with sis­ter com­pany Pa­cific Part­ner­ships and par­ent com­pany CIMIC Group.

The new Waik­e­ria fa­cil­ity is ex­pected to open in 2022, a pre­vi­ous state­ment said.

MARK TAY­LOR/STUFF

While some lo­cals are con­cerned about hav­ing a work­ers’ vil­lage in town, there are busi­nesses hang­ing on in the hope of it com­ing, O¯ toro­hanga District Mayor Max Bax­ter said (file photo).

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