Prison builders camp on the move
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.
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).