British humanitarian Terry Waite wants a radical reform of the way crime and punishment are handled in Britain - and he says New Zealand could lead the way.

Waite - a famous figure in the late 1980s when he was imprisoned in Beirut for nearly five years by the Islamic Jihad - gives this year's Quaker Lecture in the Royal Wanganui Opera House at 5.30pm on Saturday.

The lecture is free, there will be time to ask him questions, and refreshments will be provided. His talk will also be recorded and livestreamed.

Waite says he can't provide a completely different model for the way crime and punishment should be handled in the United Kingdom - but he wants to get people thinking.

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What he's seeing is people with multiple problems who cycle in and out of prisons. Full rehabilitation for them would break the cycle, he believes.

It's expensive, but he says it would save the state money in the long run.

Waite has negotiated the return of hostages in Iran and Libya. He knew it would be risky negotiating with Islamic Jihad and has since reconciled with the people who imprisoned him.

Since his release he has lectured extensively, and written several books.