A prisoner’s lot will soon be a better one (in Waikeria, anyway) in partnership with local iwi

Our Beehive bulletin

So what has Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis been up to during the Easter holiday?

Among other things, we learn today, he has  gone to prison.

Waikeria, to be specific, to check on progress on a prison development which will boost mental health services and improve rehabilitation opportunities for the people banged up inside.

The statement drawing attention to what Davis has been doing was posted on the Beehive website along with news that –

  • The Government is expanding its Pregnancy and Parenting Programme, which tailors services to women who are pregnant, or with children aged under three, who experience issues with substance abuse, “and who are not well connected to health and social services”.
  • Temporary COVID-19 immigration powers will be extended to May 2023, providing “continued flexibility to support migrants, manage the border, and help industries facing labour shortages”.
  • An Independent Expert Panel on Drug Driving has proposed criminal limits and blood infringement thresholds for 25 impairing drugs to reduce the trauma of road crashes caused by drug impaired drivers.

Police Minister Poto Williams and Transport Minister Michael Wood announced the drug driving policy on Thursday, noting that the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill is before a select committee and will give Police the power to conduct random roadside drug testing of drivers.

The Independent Expert Panel has provided advice on the setting of criminal limits, and now the public will have their say on these recommended limits.

More information on The Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill can be found HERE.

Anyone who finishes up in Waikeria as a consequence of whatever penalties are provided under the new drug-driving law can look forward to being treated for their addiction in comfortable new facilities.

The project visited by Kelvin Davis will deliver modern prison accommodation for up to 500 people and a 100-bed mental health and addiction service.

This announcement is a splendid example of the government bringing ““the Treaty partnership” into considerations, to create an “us” and “them” society where divisions are ethnic rather than economic.

Kelvin Davis has been onsite at the new build to meet with staff and see the construction first-hand after a hui at Mangatoatoa Marae with mana whenua and Waikato DHB partners.

“What we’re building here embodies our Government’s commitment to doing things differently to break the cycle of offending and make our communities safer,” Kelvin Davis said.

“We have built a strong working partnership with Ngāti Maniapoto, Raukawa, and the Waikato DHB to design the model of care for the new mental health and addiction service.”

The facility and outreach service based at Waikeria Prison will be available to people at Central Region prisons, providing rehabilitation, education, and training opportunities for people in prison and benefitting around 2,000 men a  year .

The project site is 21 hectares, consists of 29 new buildings, and includes a secure perimeter fence of 1.7 kilometres in length, with well over 700 contractors on-site daily.

In addition to Ngāti Maniapoto, Raukawa, and the Waikato DHB, Corrections has worked with representatives from Ōtorohanga District Council, Waipa District Council, schools, education providers, businesses, non-government organisations, Police, and other government departments since the project began.

The government’s practice of incorporating “the Treaty partnership” in much of what it does and separating Maori from the rest of the community is reflected, too, in Andrew Little’s announcement of the expansion of the Pregnancy and Parenting Programme.

“We know that Māori experience more challenges in terms of mental wellbeing outcomes and we are focused on ensuring a by Māori, for Māori approach to ensure services are responsive to need,” Andrew Little said.

The Government has invested $7 million over four years to expand these services, which are now available in Waitematā, Tairāwhiti, Northland and Hawke’s Bay. Little was announcing they are to be available in Whanganui and the Bay of Plenty.

The Whanganui service, named He Puna Ora, is being delivered by a collective of five Māori organisations and will support women and their families through a mixture of education and mātauranga Māori.

In the Bay of Plenty, the District Health Board has partnered with Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau and Te Pou Oranga o te Whakatohea to design and deliver services.

Little said the services are tailored to women who are pregnant, or with children aged under three, who experience issues with substance abuse, “and who are not well connected to health and social services”.

We are not told why they are “not well connected”.

Because services are not available locally?  Or because the women aren’t sufficiently motivated to take advantage of them?

The Temporary COVID-19 immigration powers that will be extended to May 2023 will vary visa conditions, extend expiry dates, and waive some application requirements across entire visa categories.

They have made more migrants available for industries facing labour shortages in a time when New Zealand’s Covid-19 health response needed our borders to be closed after regulatory changes were made under the Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill, which expires in May 2021.

Faafoi has introduced a Bill to maintain those powers until 2023.

The Bill will go through a short Select Committee process and is expected to pass in May.

Immigration Ministers have used the powers to benefit classes of migrants 18 times, including:

  • Extending visas for 22,500 workers and families members to give more certainty to them and their employers
  • Providing 5,600 offshore resident visa holders more time to come to New Zealand and activate their visas
  • Extending 16,600 visitor visas to give people more time to secure ways to return home, and allowing all visitors the opportunity to study or attend school while here
  • Extending 7,800 working holiday visas and easing conditions to allow holders to work in industries like horticulture
  • Waiving certain application requirements for transit passengers and, more recently, for RSE workers

Faafoi said:

“The extension to 2023 ensures our immigration system can continue to be responsive and flexible, if needed, over the next couple of years.

“The Bill keeps in place existing safeguards. The powers can only be used for COVID-19 related matters and generally must benefit – or at a minimum, not disadvantage – visa holders.” 

Latest from the Beehive

3 APRIL 2021

Excellent progress at new Waikeria prison build

1 APRIL 2021

Expert panel proposes criminal limits for drug driving

Covid-19 imgration powers to be extended

More support for mums and whānau struggling with alcohol and other drugs

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