People arrested in Auckland city will no longer be held in the central police station's gloomy underground cells.

Instead, they will be shipped straight off to Mt Eden Prison.

The Herald can reveal that starting this week anyone arrested in the city area will be driven directly to a new purpose-built Auckland Custody Unit at Mt Eden Correctional Facility.

The new Auckland Custody Unit, which sits next to the new remand prison which opened in 2011, will be fully functional by October 9.

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The ACU, which cost police just over $13 million to construct, will replace the district custody unit at Auckland Central station which was built in 1968.

The Auckland City District spans from Herne Bay across to St Heliers, Onehunga and Avondale and includes Waiheke and Great Barrier Islands.

So while its main police station is central to the city, it's not as handy for staff who work past the CBD fringe.

The new location will be much easier for officers transporting detainees to access.

It is closer to motorway entrances and exits and will mean less time sitting at traffic lights in the CBD.

The underground cells at Auckland Central Police Station. New Zealand Herald photograph by Paul Estcourt
The underground cells at Auckland Central Police Station. New Zealand Herald photograph by Paul Estcourt

Auckland City District Commander Superintendent Karyn Malthus told the Herald that aim of the new unit was to allow a smoother process for managing detainees.

It also enabled a "simpler transition" to the remand prison for those remanded in custody.

"This project has been in the works for some time and involved extensive collaboration between police, Justice and Corrections," Malthus said.

"The enhanced facility will provide a better working environment for our staff and to those who are held in our custody as it is significantly modernised from the current unit."

Senior Sergeant Matthew Knowsley took the Herald for a tour of the new ACU.

He said the modern build was going to be a much better space than the current cells.

"For lack of a better word, the old building is not fit for purpose," he said.

The new unit had greater technology including smart glass which allowed officers to change door windows from clear to frosted with the push of a button.

It also boasted more modern and much lighter cells - some with natural light.

Music could also be "piped in" to the cells, which could have a calming effect on some detainees.

Knowsley said a new padded cell meant problematic detainees would no longer have to be restrained or handcuffed.

While it is on a Corrections site, it is entirely managed and operated by police.

Malthus said the project was "ongoing" and further improvements were being considered to streamline the custody and court appearance process.

"A future development is looking at the introduction of the Audio Visual Link system which will reduce the need to transport prisoners between the ACU and the Auckland District Court," Malthus said.

The cells at Auckland Central will be "decommissioned".

Malthus said a decision on the future of the space would be made "in due course".

It is understood that police are considering either moving the Auckland City station to a new location or improving or rebuilding the existing facility.

A woman who spent time in the police cells a few years back told the Herald she was glad they were being decommissioned.

"They are like dungeons," she said of the underground network.

"They are the pits - cold, dark and impossible to know day from night."