5 Jun 2006

NZ Foreign Minister and MPs begin visit to Vanuatu and Cooks

9:33 am on 5 June 2006

New Zealand MPs, who visit Vanuatu over the next three days, are to visit a dilapidated prison which has long been at the centre of controversy.

The French prison is not very secure - escapes are common -- and it has been severely criticised recently for the way prisoners are treated and the physical state of the institution.

The Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, who is leading a large delegation of fellow MPs to Vanuatu and the Cook Islands, says New Zealand is to build a new prison and he wants his colleagues to see the state of the one it will replace.

"Other prisons I have seen are just horrible and I want there to be an understanding of why we need to spend some money improving the circumstances, not just of the prisoners, but also for the policemen and women on those islands. It is a very very critical area of their life that there be law and order and a better more responsible policing service."