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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



The Auckland Prison Riot, 1965

At Mount Eden Gaol, at 2 a.m. on 20 July 1965, two masked prisoners clubbed a warder who surprised them while escaping. Several more cells were opened and the prisoners then set fire to the central dome. Confusion spread as more of the inmates were freed to save them from possible suffocation. Fires raged throughout the day, gutting most of the prison buildings. While firemen struggled to put out fires, rioting prisoners showered them with bricks, crates, books, and molotov cocktails. Eventually the firemen were withdrawn from the buildings to prevent serious injuries. Meanwhile the prisoners, who controlled the inside of the gaol, burned anything combustible including furniture, bedding, and the records from the administration block. As the fires spread, warders courageously entered the burning cell blocks to see that no prisoners were trapped. A cordon of armed police, warders, and troops stood guard round the prison in the glare of hastily rigged floodlights. Warning shots were fired and high-powered hoses were used to discourage one attempt to break out. The riot ended at 10.45 a.m. on 21 July, when the prisoners surrendered after 33 hours of rioting. By that time the 83-year-old gaol was a blackened shell. All of the 293 prisoners were still in custody.