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Over $300K Spent On Slushy Syrup & Machines For Prison Staff

The Corrections Department has revealed spending over $305,000 on slushy syrup and maintaining frozen ice machines over the past six years. This disclosure comes amidst proposed job cuts affecting 3460 positions in a bid to save costs, news portal Stuff reported.

Controversy arose in 2019 when it was disclosed that Corrections had spent over $1 million of taxpayer money on 193 slushy machines. Then-National leader Simon Bridges criticized the expenditure as "irresponsible and wasteful," but then-Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis defended it as a matter of health and safety.

Despite the initial backlash, the slushy fund has persisted, with 160 of the original 193 machines still in use. The $305,906 spent includes costs for syrup and maintenance.

The data was released following a request under the Official Information Act. It revealed that over six years, Corrections spent $217,273 on slushy machine syrup, including some maintenance. An additional $81,598 was spent on machine maintenance and cleaning, with $7035 on "other consumables."



In a letter accompanying the data, Leigh Marsh, Corrections' commissioner of custodial services, emphasized the department's duty to minimize "the risk of heat stress" to prison staff. He noted that frontline staff work in hot and confined spaces, sometimes wearing heavy equipment, which can increase tension and aggression among prisoners, posing serious risks.

Marsh explained that the introduction of the slushy machines for staff only followed the hot, dry summer of 2017/18, during which Wellington recorded its hottest January since 1927. He cited research showing that crushed ice drinks are up to three times more effective than water in reducing core body temperature.

When questioned about the research, a spokesperson referred to an academic journal article titled "Crushed Ice Ingestion - A Practical Strategy for Lowering Body Temperature."

Like other government bodies, Corrections has been tasked with reducing spending, aiming for a 6.5 percent cut. Deputy Chief Executive of Strategy and Corporate Services Alice Sciascia stated that Corrections has paused recruitment for non-essential "back-office staff" to meet this target.

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