Adrien Disher, who lives near the Waikeria Prison, said he saw another fire in Waikeria last night.
A new fire broke out in the Waikeria Prison last night, according to an eye witness, after several days of rioting at the facility.
A group of 16 inmates are still avoiding arrest on the roof of the prison after starting riots and lighting a destructive fire in the prison yard on Tuesday afternoon.
Adrian Disher, who lives about 3 km from the prison, said the fires only started last night and he saw emergency services heading to the scene around 7pm.
“It’s quite big, up in the treetops.”
“This must be a new one,” he said.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand directs requests about reported fires to Corrections.
Meanwhile, a former negotiator earlier yesterday said it was “unthinkable” that the fighting had been going on for so long.
Correction said the men had gained access to tactical equipment including shields and body armor, and made homemade weapons for use against prison staff.
With 13 years of experience dealing with crisis negotiations under his belt, Lance Burdett knows the importance of trying to limit situations to two or three days.
“The longer it takes, the more likely it won’t end well,” he said.
“People are being assertive – they are not going to give a little.”
Burdett, who runs consultancy Warn International, has studied events around the world and said history books show how the siege is getting worse.
The golden rule of negotiation emphasizes getting the other person to talk and listen.
“Don’t be afraid to give something away,” added Burdett.
He admits conflicting traditions, but says being the first to offer something creates goodwill.
“That applies to human nature. If I buy you a drink, the first thing you want to do, apart from drinking it, is buy me another one.”
He also said it was important that arrangements be made “honest and respectful”.
“Never lie, once you lie, you’ve lost all credibility.”
He praised the Penitentiary for allowing inmates to speak with parents and deputy leader of the Māori Party, Rawiri Waititi.
“Both are very good choices and I commend them for doing that.”
However, he said old school tactics such as trying to starve rioters were unlikely to get good results.
“You just add fuel to the fire.”
Something had to happen to break the deadlock.
“Now the Correctional Center is in a position where the prison is basically being held for ransom by a group of individuals. They have to move at some point.
“This is not the only prison in New Zealand. There are other prisons and they will look at this and see what the response is.”
The correction was confirmed last night that inmates deliberately activated sprinklers in the cell on three occasions yesterday – twice at Mt Eden Remand Prison and once at Rimutaka Prison.
Fire and emergency response and prisoners secured in new cells.
The Herald asked Correction whether it was concerned about copycat behavior among inmates after the Waikeria Prison riots and what precautions the department was taking to monitor and suppress such behavior.
Correction said it could not respond last night, but added “no incidents of copycat behavior”.
Last night, Waititi said he had been contacted by the inmates’ whānau who said the men were only willing to surrender if he was present.
“They don’t trust the authorities and believe they will be harmed after surrendering,” he said.
“They have stated that they would come out with body bags if I was not there to escort them out and ensure their safety.
“This is a protest, not a riot.”
Waititi said he had tried to contact Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis but was blocked from accessing the prison a second time.
“The law allows the right for every member of parliament to visit prisons and communicate with inmates regarding their treatment in prison or complaints about treatment,” Waititi said.
“The purpose of my first visit was not to negotiate surrender. I went to listen.”
The aim of the second visit is to ensure the safety of the 16 people when they surrender, he said.
“If this situation turns into custard and if there are fatalities – it is entirely on the Government.”
Opposition lawmakers are demanding Government intervention to end the crisis, with
National Party leader Judith Collins asked Davis to step up.
On Twitter, he chided Davis for not making a public statement in favor of Corrections staff “dealing with violent prison riots” in Waikeria.
“Let’s be clear. The mass destruction of taxpayer-funded property, assaults of correctional staff and stockpiling of weapons are not ‘peaceful protests’,” he wrote, too.
Davis needs to explain how the loss of control happened and what he will do to fix it, Collins said.
“He was very happy bragging about prison in opposition but now that he’s in charge, he’s nowhere to be seen.”
A spokesman for Davis said he would not comment or visit the prison until the situation was resolved.
Maori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki called for calm amid rising tensions.
He asks politicians to step down and allow manau to work with correctionals, prisoners and whanau to resolve the situation quickly.
“The issues being handled are complex and in the interests of the safety of all parties involved, we have to resolve this situation and be on time.
“Health and safety risks to workers and prisoners need to be addressed as do the broader concerns of all involved.
“The reality is that the prison may have reached its use by date and in time to discuss its future – but that can only happen against the backdrop of a swift resolution to the current impasse.”
Incident supervisor Jeanette Burns yesterday said 16 prisoners continued to light significant fires.
“We are very committed to ensuring that this is resolved safely,” he said.
“There are many risks involved, including the structural integrity of buildings damaged by fire, the weapons and equipment available to detainees, the toxicity of the burning building materials, and the violence offered by detainees.”
Negotiations with the group are ongoing, he said.
On Friday, Correction confirmed the unrest experienced by inmates gain access to power tools and tactical equipment as well as making emergency weapons.
Protesting prisoners have also accessed medical pharmacies where controlled medicines are stored.