Napier Prison's chequered history is getting a profile lift, after the Heritage Rescue team from Choice TV provided a makeover of the 156-year-old building.

Show producer and director Laurie Clarke said it took the team just five days to give the building a makeover, including re-painting the entranceway and installing new display cabinets.

Brigid Gallagher, associate producer for Heritage Rescue, Choice TV, at the launch of the upgraded prison tour.
Brigid Gallagher, associate producer for Heritage Rescue, Choice TV, at the launch of the upgraded prison tour.

"Basically, what we do is we go around small museums and help them re-design displays but at the same time we also tell the history of the area. So you end up with these two strands running through the programme.

"We interview lots of people. Here, for instance, we had an expert on gangs in the area and how they would have operated in this prison. Several women were held in this prison, so we focused on telling their story - one was the abortionist Annie Aves."

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Mr Clarke said the main design work had focused on telling local stories.

"There is a very clear story being told now as you walk through."

Show presenter, archaeologist and conservator Brigid Gallagher said it had been a "wonderful" experience to work on the prison.

"You don't often come to a place where so much injustice has occurred, but we've also heard some fantastic stories - we heard some stories of real sadness but we've also heard stories of people who have gone on to live their lives of hope."

The prison was home to mass murderer Roland Edwards.

It was decommissioned in the 1990s.

Napier Prison Tours owner and Napier Prison trustee Toro Waaka, who took over the lease for the site in 2001, said the makeover was a great improvement to a building that was still owned by the Crown.

"It's a big place and old places take heaps to maintain.

"It's nice to have someone come in with a fresh vision."

Napier Prison Tours events coordinator Ali Beal said the company had invited guests at the official reveal on Sunday to bring tinned food for a donation to the local foodbank.

"We were so pleased to have been given this assistance, so we wanted to give something back to the community."

The show will be broadcast on Choice TV in August.