Auckland Women's Corrections Facility Hero

Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility

Between 1997 and 2007 the Department of Corrections undertook a major construction programme: The Regional Prisons Development Programme. The $1 billion programme included turnkey delivery of new prisons in Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Otago to meet forecast growth in the prison population. The new facilities were large-scale, complex and technically demanding projects involving multiple and diverse stakeholders.

Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF) was the second of the four new prisons to be constructed. It is the first women’s correctional facility in New Zealand, which has been purpose-designed and built. 


The Department of Corrections’ aims:

  • To build several new regional prisons to meet an expected growth in prisoner numbers
  • To implement the Department’s Regional Prisons Policy, developed in 1997, which suggests that locating prisoners as near to their home area as possible improves the chances of successful reintegration into society and reduces re-offending rates.

What we did:

In 2004, following a competitive, transparent and audited selection process, Hawkins, a team of specialist design consultants and the Department of Corrections entered into a collaborative working arrangement.

This type of contractual framework involves a participative approach to decision making and planning, underpinned by a continuous improvement philosophy, with risks shared appropriately. It was chosen due to the size and complexity of the project, combined with the tight timeframe for delivery within the overheated nature of the Auckland construction market.

ARWCF is an open-style complex, comprising 38 individual buildings incorporating residential, custodial, educational, recreational and light industrial design and construction. The new facilities incorporate design features that are intended to be more effective in terms of safety, security and rehabilitation. ARWCF has been designed to encourage prisoners to improve behaviour and take some responsibility for themselves while enhancing the safety features for the public and staff.

The facility has been designed to create a more normalised environment, with prisoners encouraged and expected to be responsible for getting to employment activities on time, attending rehabilitative programmes or visiting the site's health facilities when needed. ARWCF complies with the Department of Corrections’ energy brief in line with triple bottom line reporting requirements.

Unique challenges:

Three months after the contract was awarded, with project planning underway but construction not having commenced, the project scope was significantly altered in response to a sharp rise in female prisoner population projections. The new brief was to go from a 150-bed to a 286-bed facility, with supporting infrastructure to cater for potential future development to a maximum site capacity of 350 beds plus 20% contingent capacity.

Despite this, the facility still had to be ready to take prisoners in August 2006, which meant that the construction timeframe could only be extended by two months, from March to May 2006. This was successfully achieved.

The outcome:

ARWCF opened in 2006. It meant that many female prisoners could serve their sentences closer to home without the need to send them to Wellington or Christchurch.

It has one high security management unit with 24 beds, two high-medium security units, one for sentenced and one for remand prisoners, each with 90 beds and a 32-bed assessment unit. Many cells can accommodate two prisoners through double-bunking.

The prison has a specialist unit for mothers with babies and provides the Kowhiritanga (Making Choices) Programme. This rehabilitation programme is designed to address the particular needs of female prisoners – many of who have suffered sexual abuse during childhood and in their current relationships.