After damning reports of violence, bullying and poor conditions at New Zealand prisons, the money is being spent to change the culture and services behind the barbed wire.

An inspection of Christchurch Men's, Rolleston, Arohata and Manawatu prisons published by the Chief Ombudsman late last year highlighted that 60 per cent of prisoners said they had been bullied, 23 per cent said it was easy to get drugs in, and 11 per cent reported they had been sexually assaulted.

A lack of dental access, CCTV being directed at prisoners using the toilet, and evening meals being distributed as early as 3.15pm were some of the other criticisms.

Corrections says the multi-million dollar investment in rebuilding and refurbishing Auckland and Manawatu prisons will go a long way to resolving the problems there, along with the appointment of a new chief inspector at the organisation.

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A new $300 million state-of-the-art facility is nearing completion, adjacent to the current prison at Paremoremo, Auckland, while a two year, $15m refurbishment is planned at Manawatu Prison.

"We are committed to ensuring we are meeting accepted international standards of safety, human dignity, rehabilitation and reintegration needs within prisons," says Neil Beales, Corrections' chief custodial officer.

"Auckland Prison houses some of New Zealand's most disturbed and dangerous prisoners and while it was noted that violence was not widespread, the new, purpose-built facility will make it safer for prisoners and staff alike by updating facilities, and will enable the current maximum security facility to be retired."

The $15m refurbishment at Manawatu will include a single point of entry to the prison, a main block refurbishment and a new AV suite for court appearances.

The national prison muster is sitting at approximately 10,700 and the new chief inspector, Janis Adair, has identified that some issues facing Auckland and Manawatu Prisons, including a growing inmate population, are outside of its control.

- NZN