Embattled Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga is defending his handling of the controversial death of a prisoner at a privately-run prison.

Mr Lotu-Iiga is facing calls to resign after Labour MP Kelvin Davis presented evidence that he was warned a month ago in a select committee meeting that prisoners were being dropped from a balcony in the Serco-managed Mt Eden Correctional Facility.

That contradicted a claim by the minister earlier today that he had only heard about the practice known as "dropping" this week.

In a statement released this evening, Mr Lotu-Iiga defended his actions.


"The transcript of the select committee shows that Mr Davis raised an accusation only of prisoners being thrown off balconies," he said.

"I responded, and it is on record, that I was aware of the case of a prisoner transferred to Ngawha who had died."

Mr Lotu-Iiga said he did not want to speculate on the death at the time because it was being investigated by the coroner and the Corrections chief inspector.

"If Kelvin Davis was alluding to a practice known as 'dropping' he did not make it clear that it was widespread, that it was a practice that was ongoing, nor did he refer to it as 'dropping'.

"If he had, I would have pursued it with my officials.

"In any case, I will be asking my officials why none present at the select committee made a note of the accusation for follow up.

"As it stands, the accusation that Mr Davis has made is still hearsay."

Mr Lotu-Iiga also said he was becoming increasingly concerned at the number of stories that were emerging about events in the Mt Eden prison, which include claims of fight clubs, drug use and extreme violence.


He has called in Serco's senior management for an urgent meeting tomorrow.

"I will be making it very clear that if there is anything else they need to tell me, now is the time or they will face serious consequences."