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Mt Eden Prison faces new future

Thursday 20 Oct 2016 9:00 a.m.

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Welcome to the old Mt Eden Prison. It's a grim and dreary place. Paint flakes from the endless iron bars and moss grows in smears on the walls.

It's not quite Alcatraz, but it's one of New Zealand's most historic lock-ups - and now it faces an uncertain future.

The first inmates entered in 1888, with the last of them moving out in 2011 when the new Mt Eden Corrections Facility was built next door.

Several famous incidents to occur at the prison included New Zealand's last hanging, and several famous song-inspiring prisoner escapes.

The Department of Corrections is set to release a report into the options for the prison - but its ultimate fate is yet to be revealed.

So, Newshub decided to canvass the different opinions.

New Auckland Mayor Phil Goff floated an idea during his race. He came out in favour of housing the homeless in the old prison.

In October, he said he wanted to look at reusing the prison as a temporary shelter, as it already was setup with toilets, kitchens, and beds.

But Mr Goff's ideas were swiftly ruled out by Corrections, which argued it was infeasible due to earthquake concerns and its location next to the operating prison.

Another option is turning Mt Eden into a luxury hotel. Corrections says the money for this would need to come from an outside source.

Despite what the public has heard, Corrections is not in the business of providing luxury accommodation.

This option has been trialled overseas, with examples including the Charles Street Jail in Boston, which was refurbished into a four-star luxury hotel.

The new owners used the bones of the building to recreate, with stunning style, a lock-up that has guests willingly returning.

The inside of the Liberty Hotel (Liberty Hotel)

In similar redo is the Alcatraz Hotel in Germany. It has 56 rooms - some with toilets and sinks housed in the bedroom.

With our Kiwi love of home renovations, this would be a great opportunity for Aucklanders to join together and show off their DIY skills. At the very least, it would make for a great reality TV show.

Alcatraz Hotel (supplied/Alcatraz Hotel)

Another possibility - although unlikely - is a giant paintball complex. Visitor could play hunt the prisoner, and snipe each other from the rooftops.

Or they could enjoy a game of breakout, or capture the hooch. The possibilities are endless.

However, it is believed Corrections is aiming to turn the prison into a tourism venture - such as a museum, capturing New Zealand's criminal history.

"There's some great international examples in some major cities that have become core parts of tourism," says Corrections corporate services deputy chief executive Vince Arbuckle.

"Failing that, we'll be stuck with a building we don't have a clear purpose for."

Alcatraz on its island (Abrahami/D Ramey Logan
/Wikipedia)

One idea to draw on is the infamous Alcatraz in the United States, which became a national recreation area in 1972.

Ultimately, Corrections says whatever happens, the aim is to protect the heritage and make sure the building meets the security constraints of the actual prison just over the fence.

Tune in to TV3's Story tonight at 7:30pm for a tour of the prison with one of those who knows it best.

Newshub.

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