Waikeria Prison standoff: Protest had 'major impact' on other inmates - family member

A family member of an inmate in Waikeria Prison says the recent protest has had a "major impact" on those still living in the facility.

The remaining 16 prisoners surrendered on Sunday after a six-day standoff over their alleged inhumane living conditions - a claim the Department of Corrections denies.

The prison itself is made up of several blocks and around 500 inmates remain in the lower jail, which wasn't damaged in the unrest. But several hundred metres up the road, the top jail is all but destroyed.

The 200 other men who were housed in the top jail have now been moved to other prisons that are mostly in the upper North Island. 

A family member of one of the 500 inmates still in the prison says the protest caused distress for others.

"It had a major impact on the ones who were still in there. At one stage they were on 23-hour lock-up and only allowed out for an hour," she told Newshub.

Newshub understands the prison's Receiving Office is located in the burnt-out jail, meaning recent arrivals may have lost their personal belongings.

"All of that has been burnt, so for court appearances, nobody has any clothes. I know my partner lost two pairs of shoes and all the clothing that he had."

Corrections says because the top jail facility is a crime scene, "we haven't had an opportunity to assess the damage or what might be salvageable".

Police are now investigating the protest and say, because of the complexity, it may take several months. 

So far, no charges have been laid. 

Jeremy Lightfoot.
Jeremy Lightfoot. Photo credit: Newshub.

"I am highly confident in the laws of New Zealand to address these matters appropriately," Corrections CEO Jeremy Lightfoot says.

He also says the protests have had a lasting impact on prisoners.

"It caused a huge amount of trauma for the 200 prisoners that were evacuated from the top jail under urgency, during fires. It has significantly impacted on the 500 men that remain at the low jail site."

Moving prisoners to other sites will limit the ability for friends and family to visit inmates and maintain contact while their court matters are ongoing, he adds.

"That is something now, as a result of these 16 men's actions, that will be resulting for some time," he says.

"There is no excuse for what these men have done."

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis decided not to speak publicly during the unrest, but now has plans to visit the prison. 

"I would personally like to, and privately like to, thank the staff, all those heroes, that brought this event to a safe conclusion."

The Waikeria 16 have been split up and sent to other jails around the country.