Prison staff at a number of the country's jails look set to lose their jobs when a new privately run facility at Wiri near Auckland replaces several older jails.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed this morning that a number of older prisons would close, but stopped short of saying which ones or how many.

"We're going through the process of talking to the unions that are involved.''

Mr Key told Newstalk ZB that the financial impact the closures would have on local communities had been considered, but that overall it was in the best interests of the justice system not to keep them going.


"They required a lot of ongoing maintenance, so actually they wouldn't be great facilities for the prisoners and staff who work in them,'' Mr Key said.

"We took the view that it was better to upgrade the stock with the new prison at Wiri.''

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley has already said Corrections was looking at closing Mt Crawford Prison.

Labour's justice spokesman Charles Chauvel said sources had suggested New Plymouth, Invercargill and Wellington prisons were among those slated for complete closure, while Waikeria and Paremoremo prisons would also be cut back.

Mr Chauvel said prison closures would deal big blows to regional economies, as a significant number of jobs were lost.

"Prison beds are still needed, and smaller institutions, spread across New Zealand, are better than mega-facilities concentrated in a few centres. These reasons include risk management and rehabilitation, as well as their contribution to regional economies,'' Mr Chauvel said.

"But more importantly, they're already there, and the taxpayer has already spent millions of dollars over decades to keep them open.''

The new Wiri prison is to be run by Serco, a private company that also manages Mt Eden prison.