An infamous career criminal who founded the "Hole in the Wall Gang" of bank robbers and stowed away on a cargo ship to Australia after escaping from Mt Eden Prison is holding his first solo art exhibition.
Simon Allan Kerr, 54, has been in and out of prison since he was 15 and is serving time at the Northland Region Corrections Facility, Ngawha.
His most recent lag comes after he was sentenced in 2013 to six and a half years in jail for burglary and theft from a Dargaville ATM machine in September 2009 that netted more than $112,000 in cash. He was on the run from the police for two years before they finally arrested him.
Kerr has almost 150 convictions, including for escapes from Mt Eden and Paremoremo jails. After one escape in 1987, he stowed away on a cargo ship to Australia. In 1994, he mounted a 13-day rooftop turret protest against remand conditions in Mt Eden that ended with the armed offenders squad forcibly bringing him down.
In June last year, Kerr was denied parole. The Parole Board expressed "considerable reservations about his future risks", given his history.
"His history of unabated, carefully planned, serious crimes over an extensive period clearly place him at considerable risk," the board said.
Kerr took his case to the High Court, seeking a judicial review of the decision. He was unsuccessful and remains in prison awaiting his next hearing.
In recent years, Kerr has been painting and a selection of his work is being exhibited at Depot Artspace in Devonport, where he grew up.
His work is described as "both narrative and allegorical" and "often autobiographical in nature, exploring Kerr's controversial history".
Many of his paintings feature depictions of police and prisoners and are available to purchase, some with a price tag of more than $2000.
"I am not looking to be accepted by society, I want to contribute to it," he told the gallery in an interview this year.
"I don't want to add my mess to it in a destructive way as I have in the past. I want to give all that mess a home. For good. A place where it won't cause any trouble for anyone. A picture on a wall is a safe place for it all to live now."
Ngawha prison director David Pattinson said: "Corrections offers a broad range of arts programmes for prisoners as constructive activities which can support their rehabilitation and reintegration.
"Commonly prisoners who create art to a standard that is suitable for sale do so in non-work time and pay for their own materials. Money from the sale of paintings is often used by prisoners to support their families."
Kerr's sister Ruth gave an insight into his life, and his art: "Simon was always brimming with imaginative ideas but he struggled at school - both academically and with the constraints of rules.
"Simon first went to Addington Prison in Christchurch at 15 and that's where his real criminal education began ... These early prison years very much moulded the man he would become - clever but under-educated; compassionate but hardened; emotional and loving but irresponsible - a survivor."
She was "very proud" of him and supportive of his art.
"Simon has lived a life less ordinary and I believe his art will continue to flourish as he paints out his unique story. I think he is ready for that challenge and we very much look forward to sharing the journey with him."
The exhibition opened last week and runs until September 16. Kerr has three further exhibitions lined up for this year.
• Born April 29, 1961.
• First went to Addington Prison at 15.
• Set up the Hole in the Wall Gang of bank ATM machine thieves in the 1980s.
• Escaped from Mt Eden Prison in 1987 and stowed away on a cargo ship to Australia.
• In 1994, he mounted a 13-day rooftop protest at Mt Eden that ended with the armed offenders squad forcibly removing him.
• In 2009, he committed a number of burglaries and stole from a Dargaville ATM.
• He went on the run for two years and was not arrested until 2011.