The Parole Board has declined an application by Raymond ' />

One of the country's worst mass murderers is to spend at least another year behind bars.

The Parole Board has declined an application by Raymond Ratima for early release, despite finding he was drug free and had "presented to us as a very disciplined, articulate, intelligent young man".

In June 1992, a month after the Schlaepfer family massacre in which six people died in Paerata, 25-year-old Ratima - now 39 years old - bludgeoned and stabbed to death seven relatives in Masterton. It was one of the worst mass murders in New Zealand history. Among the dead were his children Piripi, 7, Barney, 5, and Stacey, 2, and his pregnant sister-in-law Nicola Ferguson.

Ratima, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, last appeared for parole in 2003. At his hearing a fortnight ago, the board gave no undertaking about when he may be released. "Steps he has taken are the right steps towards that process, but it will be a very gradual and very careful one in view of what has happened in the past," the board said.

It did support a psychologist's recommendation that Ratima be transferred to Leimon Villas, Christchurch Prison's self-care units.

"We support that, if it is judged by the prison authorities an appropriate step to make. Ratima has undertaken a number of courses and programmes in prison, and confronted the cannabis addiction which had played a big part in his life."

He has been drug free since September 2005.