It is costing taxpayers almost $1 million a year to keep Ashley Peacock behind locked doors, according to information released under the Official Information Act.

The New Zealand Herald broke the story of Peacock's living situation last year, revealing the intellectually disabled, autistic and mentally ill man has lived in a 10sq m seclusion room in Capital and Coast District Health Board's Tawhirimatea Unit for five years.

Peacock, who is aged in his late 30s, is a compulsory patient under the Mental Health Act and spends up to 23 hours a day in an isolation wing. His sleeps in a room with just a mattress and a urine bottle.

Amnesty International, the Ombudsman and the Human Rights Commission have expressed concerns about his treatment, and his parents have long lobbied for him to be released.


In February, the board told parliament's health select committee it was spending about $750,000 a year to keep Peacock in the unit.

But an Official Information Act response from the board reveals the total cost to the taxpayer is much higher, Fairfax reported.

Gisborne-based Tairawhiti District Health Board also contributed $183,000 a year to Peacock's care, taking the total cost to more than $900,000, the board told them.

Most of the money was spent on staffing and direct patient care costs, including laundry and food.

Two non-government organisation staff worked 22.5 hours a week with Peacock. Eight full time-equivalent health board staff also worked with him, including psychiatry and allied health professionals, Fairfax reported.

Costs also included escort staff, unit programmes and disability support funding.

Health board staff said at the select committee hearing Peacock was a particularly high-risk patient.

When asked by Fairfax for a breakdown of his assaults on his care providers or visitors, the board alleged 29 between January 1 last year and January 31 this year in its Official Information Act response. No detail was provided.


Dr John Crawshaw, the Health Ministry's director of mental health, said they recognised the "significant" level of investment in Peacock's care by the health boards, and liaised with them about his ongoing needs.