Artists spruce up Manukau's police holding cells

A newly decorated cell at Counties Manukau Police Station (Newshub.)
A newly decorated cell at Counties Manukau Police Station (Newshub.)

The holding cells at Counties Manukau Police Station are not somewhere you'd really plan to end up in -- but if you do, you can know they're much nicer now than they used to be.

The pastel green and white concrete walls have been transformed into colourful murals, to help create more positivity for detainees and staff.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins was at the station today to thank the artists and have a look around.

She says you can't do much to make the holding cells appealing, but Manukau police have the right idea.

"Normally people are coming in here at all stages of drunkenness, drug abuse, distress. It's never going to be pleasant, so the best that we can do is what police are doing -- and encouraging a better environment."

The project is the brainchild of Inspector Tracey Phillips. She had noticed how depressing the facilities could be for both staff and detainees and wanted to do something to combat it.

Artists spruce up Manukau's police holding cells

An example of what the cells looked like before they were decorated (Supplied)

A group of artists were selected in December, including Jeeah Kim, a design student at AUT.

"I hope that this brightens up the room, the colours and the message. So I mean that both figuratively and literally."

"It's a really nice opportunity for me to paint a public place – well, semi-public."

Also among the artists was one of the police force's own -- Senior Sergeant Dave Laumatia.

He has had no formal training in design, but is passionate about reaching out and showing detainees there is a world beyond the four walls of a holding cell.

"I've personally travelled the world quite a bit and I just want other people in New Zealand to think that there is a lot more to the world than people know," says Snr Sgt Laumatia.

"I want people to think that this time in the cell, you don't have to stay here, you can better yourself and maybe even travel in time.

"Being here is about freedom and hope."

Police have also set up a library of donated books to give detainees "something constructive to do" while they are being held.