The old Dunedin Prison has been accepting its first inmates
in years, but they are tourists rather than hardened
The Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust bought the former prison
last year with the aim of turning it into a tourist
attraction. Recently the first guided tours, conducted by two
former Dunedin Prison employees, have been walking its
otherwise abandoned corridors.
Public tours will run right through the month until March 30.
Dunedin Prison Trust chairman Stewart Harvey said the tours
would give people a chance to poke their heads in the door
and see what was happening in the prison.
The trust is employing Sydney-based heritage consultants
MUSEcape to draw up a conservation plan for the prison. Once
the plan was complete, the trust would know what kind of work
would need to be done and would have a fundraising target, Mr
One option might be restoring the prison to the state it was
in early in its lifetime, he said.
Mr Harvey estimated the conservation project would take years
and would be a multimillion-dollar effort.
''It's going to be a long road,'' he said.
The prison, which is built from 919,000 bricks, was opened on
June 16, 1898.
It was intended to house 59 prisoners but had held as many as
72 on some occasions.
Some of the prisoners were high-profile, such as David Bain,
and ''baby-farmer'' Minnie Dean, who was housed there before
her execution for multiple infanticide in Invercargill.
The Dunedin prison has never been the site of an execution or
flogging, although there had been suicides, escapes and the
1966 murder of Constable Donald Stokes by two prisoners
trying to escape.
Before its 2009 closure, the building was used for many
purposes, including being both a men's and a women's prison,
a Security Intelligence Service (SIS) office and a police
- by Jonathan Chilton-Towles