When you've spent more than 40 years locked up in prison, it's the simple things you look forward to the most when you finally get released.

When high profile inmate Arthur Taylor was released from prison this morning, the simple things included a fresh ham roll (eaten with metal cutlery), using a phone without permission and having a hoon on a Lime scooter.

"One of the first things I did was stop at Te Awamutu and had a nice latte and a lovely ham roll - because I haven't had any pork products for the last 14 years, or tomato - so that was really cool," he said.

"And steel knives and forks after using flimsy plastic ones for the last 14 years, it's those little things.

"It was good to be back out among ordinary people without a prison uniform and guards - it was so good to be out in the ordinary community again.

"And hey, I [went] up and had a go on a Lime scooter this afternoon.

"I thought they'd have more grunt to tell you the truth, it's probably because of the 20kg I've put on while I've been in prison."

Arthur Taylor spoke to the Herald about life, love and his first Lime scooter experience. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Dean Purcell.
Arthur Taylor spoke to the Herald about life, love and his first Lime scooter experience. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Dean Purcell.

Taylor's also looking forward to going to bed and waking when he pleases - without the glare of prison lights or the banging of guards on doors each morning.

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Most of all, he is excited to have control over his life.

"It's still sinking in. It's still a bit surreal," he said.

"It will probably take me a few days to realise. I'll probably wake up thinking 'I'm still in prison', wondering when the guards are going to open the doors and all that rigmarole.

"It's really indescribable, it's just one of those things you can't describe - it's so wonderful," he said.

"In prison, they tell you when to do everything, they even count the number of squares of toilet paper they issue you … now you're back with some sort of control of your own life again, you know?"

Taylor has spent more than 40 of his 62 years in prison for various offending.

After being denied parole 19 times, Taylor finally succeeded in his bid for freedom at a hearing in January.

He was released from Waikeria Prison at 6am on Monday and was greeted by his sister, Joanne.

His last hours in prison were spent as normal, in his cell waiting for his wake-up call.

But unlike the others in the past few years, this wake-up call would be the last.

"I watched a bit of TV, packed everything up that I had to pack up and went to sleep about 11pm," he said.

"At 5.30am the guards came to the door and said 'right, you ready to go' and at 6am I was walking out that boom gate at Waikeria."

Former inmate Arthur Taylor who is on his first day of freedom and spending it doing media interviews. 11 February 2019 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Dean Purcell.
Former inmate Arthur Taylor who is on his first day of freedom and spending it doing media interviews. 11 February 2019 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Dean Purcell.

Taylor described his release as bittersweet.

"It's one of the sad things, you get quite close to people in prison - they're like your family in a lot of ways, especially the decent ones," he explained.

"It's quite sad to leave them there knowing that you're not going to see them again and they are going to stay there."

After leaving Waikeria, Taylor spent time with his sister, her children and their children - the sound of the youngster's laughter music to the old uncle's ears.

He is desperate to see his two sons and young daughter, as well as his other siblings and plans to do that as soon as he can.

"Children you know, we don't understand how precious our children are until we haven't got them," he said.

"The little stuff the average person takes for granted."

Taylor was serving 17 and a-half years for charges involving explosives, firearms, kidnapping and conspiracy to supply methamphetamine, among other crimes.

His sentence was not due to end until 2022. If he breaches his parole conditions he may be recalled to serve the rest of that sentence.

Over the years Taylor racked up more than 150 convictions for offences, including bank robbery, burglary, fraud and drugs.

He now says his criminal career is well and truly over.

"You will not see me darkening any prison doors again," he said.

Arthur Taylor meets his sister Joanne and media outside Waikeria Prison today. New Zealand Herald photograph by Mike Scott
Arthur Taylor meets his sister Joanne and media outside Waikeria Prison today. New Zealand Herald photograph by Mike Scott

When Taylor arrived in Auckland today he met for the first time the woman he will live with outside prison.

Hazel Heal is a recent law graduate from Dunedin and first engaged with Taylor through prison letters.

She is a staunch Hepatitis C advocate, something Taylor also helped inmates out with while in prison.

They formed a friendship and Heal agreed to provide Taylor with a parole address.

The pair will dine tonight with legal expert Professor Mark Henaghan and Taylor was looking forward to catching up and have a "quiet night" at his hotel, likely tucked up in bed at about 9.30pm.

In the coming days, they will head to Heal's home.

Taylor said he hadn't been to Dunedin since 1975 and was looking forward to getting to the southern city, settling in and "winding down".

"For about six to eight months I just propose to wind down, you know? Take care of what I've got on the go now.

"I want to further my education ... catch up with some good people, it's just so great to be able to phone them or get a phone call from somebody.

"You just don't know until you haven't got it."

Taylor has a cellphone and laptop ready to go but admitted technology had moved on "a hell of a lot" since he was jailed and he had some catching up to do.

He was excited about it all though, ready to start his new life.

He was also looking forward to reconnecting with Tui Hartman, a woman he became engaged to behind bars.

After the pair spoke out about their love and wedding plans, they decided to put the relationship on hold until Taylor was freed.

Arthur Taylor. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Dean Purcell.
Arthur Taylor. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Dean Purcell.

"I'll be calling Tui tonight," he said.

"She's probably wondering why the hell I haven't phoned her all day - but I haven't been able to get into my phone, it's got a PIN number on it.

"Tui and I decided to put things on that backburner - when you're in a relationship you've got to be on solid ground.

"We had the right things there but you've got to see it in the real world ... when you're in a relationship you're there to make each other's lives better, and it's got to be a pleasure for both parties otherwise it just becomes a habit.

"We just don't want that so we just thought it was better we get to know each other a lot more on the outside."

He is looking forward to getting to know Hartman outside the razor wire and hopes they can build a real future together.

Taylor said one of the things he missed most in prison was not being able to contribute to his family - his children and his siblings.

He is the eldest in the family and has keenly felt being unable to support them all properly.

"Not being able to be there and do things a dad does with a daughter or a son ... that's what I want," he said.

"And also being able to choose the people you spend time with - they often say one of the worst things about being in prison is the people they force you to be with, and that's true in a lot of cases."

In recent years Taylor became better known as a "jailhouse lawyer" after a series of successful court cases.

These included the 2017 prosecution and trial of Roberto Conchie Harris - secret "Witness C" - for perjury at David Tamihere's double-murder trial in 1990.

He was also instrumental in the courts ruling that denying New Zealand prisoners the right to vote was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights, and challenged the legality of the
prison smoking ban.

He has no plans to stop his crusade against Corrections - quite the opposite, in fact.

"(Corrections) are going to be hearing from me a hell of a lot, now I've got the tools and I can pick up the phone and send an email," he laughed.

"They can't lock me in a prison and try and forget me now.

"I happen to believe if you've got knowledge and abilities you have a duty as a part of our community to use that for the good of people.

"Before I used to help criminals organise crimes and carry out crimes - now I get the same sort of rewards from helping people with the law."