A decision to name New Zealand's biggest new private prison a place to "move out of the mist" is being called "potty" by justice campaigners.

The $300 million, 850-bed men's facility at Wiri, South Auckland, is due to open next May.

The medium security prison will have two names, after prison operator Serco consulted with community groups and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley had the final say.

Its formal title is Auckland South Correctional Facility - but it will also be known locally as Kohuora, translated as "coming out of the mist into the new world of the living", a name recommended by Mana Whenua iwi, Te Akitai Waiohua.


"Our community partners considered this resonates well with our focus on helping to prepare prisoners to lead constructive lives post-release and to reduce reoffending," a Serco spokeswoman said.

"As many locals already know, Kohuora is also the name of a volcanic crater close to the prison."

The Sensible Sentencing Trust dubbed the move "political correctness gone mad".

"We would like inmates to be reminded they are serving their sentences in a prison, not some kind of spiritual retreat," spokeswoman Ruth Money said.

Law and order hardliner Kenneth Wang, deputy leader of the Act Party, said the idea was "bizarre".

"The authorities have already tried to reinvent prisons as 'correctional facilities' and now they are trying to give them another makeover. It is senseless."

Brian Brown, whose 24-year-old daughter Natasha Hayden was strangled by double killer Michael Curran in 2005, was appalled to hear of the new names for the prison.

"So, when someone asks a criminal 'where have you been bro?' they can say "I have been spending a few months at Kohuora, bro," which sounds a lot better than 'I have been in prison the last few months, bro'. It is disgusting."


Tolley insisted the name was not important. "Regardless of what it is called, I expect the new prison to be high-performing, secure and safe, and to provide excellent rehabilitation opportunities, so we can have fewer victims of crime."

Meanwhile, a report into how to improve New Zealand's prison system will be unveiled on June 24 by criminal justice organisation JustSpeak.