Smoke continues to rise from Waikeria Prison 12 hours after fire

Flames leapt into the sky above Waikeria Prison's 'top jail' overnight, where prisoners have been holed up for four nights now, with smoke still rising 12 hours later. 

At least one major fire was burning, with smoke wafting from several buildings, around 1am on Saturday. There have been no reports of injuries as a result of the fire.

It has been five days since the 16 men took control of the top jail in Waikeria Prison, protesting the conditions there. They say they are being treated inhumanely, with a lack of access to basic necessities like clean clothing, bedding and water.

On Saturday, guards continued to patrol the perimeter of the facility while prisoners appear to be to patrolling the roof.

After days of hot sun, steady showers have set in around Waikeria, helping to dampen any remaining hotspots.

Newshub has spoken to family members of some of men who are growing increasingly worried about the group’s well being.

While Corrections has been unable to confirm the cause of the fire, supporters of the group claim the fire was started by bullets fired by officers.

Newshub saw one fire truck responding to the fire, which dwindled as the clock neared 1:30am

Overnight, Corrections staff in full riot gear patrolled the perimeter. Faint banging and shouting could be heard from inside the barbed wire fence, while two drones flew above the prison complex.

The conflagration came after protesting prisoners were seen making makeshift weapons and body armour out of material on the jail's roof. They're also believed to be in possession of drugs after raiding medicine stocks at the prison.

There are fears the days-long standoff will end with a violent confrontation after several of the inmates assaulted one of their own.

"While the group state that they are protesting conditions at the prison and not rioting, their actions are clearly violent," Corrections incident controller Jeanette Burns said on Friday.

Waikeria Prison on Saturday morning.
Waikeria Prison on Saturday morning. Photo credit: Newshub.

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi has been at the prison, at the protesters' request, trying to find a resolution to the stand-off.

"I don't want anybody hurt. We don't want any deaths, ultimately," he said. "The problem is the prisoners won't listen to anybody of authority at this particular time. So we've gotta just look at how many other ways we can do this to ensure that we come to an amicable outcome."

National Party Corrections spokesperson Simeon Brown told Newshub Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis needs to intervene, but Davis says there's no chance he'll visit the prison until the prisoners come down and the issue is resolved. The inmates claim that won't happen until their complaints about the conditions are addressed.

"They don't get towels for three weeks, five months they wait for clean bedding - three weeks for clean clothes. Corrections doesn't listen," one of the inmates' whanau told Newshub.

The protest began on Wednesday when inmates set mattresses on fire and ripped off shower doors to fight guards - Newshub aware of the violence before Corrections was