Hastings MP, mayor expressed 'strong concern' to police minister over location of proposed remand facility

12:53 pm on 19 December 2022
Iwi have dreams of transforming an RSE worker lodge in Hastings into a live-in support site for people who have had been arrested or charged by police.

Supporters of the proposal to transform a fruitpackers lodge into a new kind of remand facility say it will be transformational for Māori, while local authorities believe it will destroy prime land for desperately needed houses. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

The local Labour MP and the mayor in Hastings have expressed their "strong concern" to the police minister over the location of a new kind of remand facility proposed by iwi and police.

Its supporters say it will be transformational for Māori, while local authorities believe it will destroy prime land for desperately needed houses.

The idea is to transform a fruitpackers lodge into accommodation, where providers can give live-in support to those who have been arrested or charged by police.

In January, when the development was still under wraps and out of public knowledge, Labour MP for Tukituki Anna Lorck and Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst both sent letters to then-police minister, Poto Williams.

Those letters have now been made public, after RNZ requested them from the police minister's office under the Official Information Act (OIA).

Hazlehurst said she had "strong concern" about the building of the facility in "the heart of a residential area of Hastings".

"We are particularly concerned at the lack of consultation with council during the planning for the facility and prior to the purchase of the land," her letter said.

"Our particular issues with the proposed site include that it removes potentially 40 residential sections from the market at a time when all efforts are being made to increase housing options without impacting on the surrounding growing soils, and that it will impact negatively on 90 new market homes under construction on its boundaries."

"It is also very difficult to understand why police would purchase residentially-zoned land that will require rezoning, when the Crown already has 50 ha of appropriately zoned land around the current Hawke's Bay Regional Prison, in Mangaroa Rd."

Anna Lorck told Williams although she was in support of a new "'fit-for-purpose' custodial solution", she had major concerns.

"It is the location that is raising concern and objection among local stakeholders, especially as Hastings is in the middle of a housing crises [sic] and we need residential zoned land to build houses. Hawke's Bay has some of the highest levels of housing need in New Zealand.

She also shared Hazlehurt's concerns about the land near the prison.

Williams' response was similar to both letters.

She said the project was intended to be a pilot for a "transformational future custodial model".

"This model will consider a holistic view of everything in and around custody, how this affects people in custodial care and how this delivers better outcomes, particularly for Māori.

"Police purchased the property at 811 Omahu Rd as it was deemed a suitable option to support police's future custody model project.

"Given the deadline imposed by the open market tender process, detailed consultation was unable to be carried out ... but I am advised police intend to carry out comprehensive and ongoing consolation."

She said police intended to be "transparent".

Current police minister Chris Hipkins said he did not have anything further to add to Williams' comments, apart from saying police were working with the council to "assess the availability of relevant site options".

But Ngāti Kahungunu representatives previously told RNZ the development had to be in the centre of town.

"If it's not right in the middle of town it won't work, you might as well keep them in prison," former chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana earlier said.

"It has to be in the community from whence they came."

They argued the people needed to be closer to city facilities rather than in a rural, isolated area.

Local Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri said she supported the project, but was open to an alternative location.