ZB ZB
Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Listen to NAME OF STATION
Up next
Listen live on
ZB

Teens youth justice escape attempt was 'planned', staffer stabbed

Author
Nathan Morton, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Feb 2023, 10:16am
The incident unfolded at Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo - youth justice residence in Rolleston. Photo / Sam Sherwood
The incident unfolded at Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo - youth justice residence in Rolleston. Photo / Sam Sherwood

Teens youth justice escape attempt was 'planned', staffer stabbed

Author
Nathan Morton, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 Feb 2023, 10:16am

A routine Sunday night at a Rolleston youth justice facility turned to mayhem when five teenagers attempted an escape, during which a staff member was stabbed with a makeshift weapon.

They made it as far as the gym roof of Te Puna Wai o Tūhinapō, before police intervened and brought the offenders down after almost four hours.

It is understood the attempted breakout was a result of “clear planning”.

Overseen by Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children, the youth justice residence has the capacity to hold up to 40 young people guilty of offending.

The facility consists of four open units - which hold up to 10 teenagers at a time - as well as a secure unit where serious matters inside the facility are resolved.

The Herald understands the attempted breakout was staged at one of the open units, where the group of teens took advantage of poorly-maintained aspects of the building to escape.

The group used a staged distraction at a separate unit to draw the attention of staff, before kicking open an allegedly expensive glass window and climbing onto the unit’s roof.

It’s understood the window’s surrounding metal plates were identified as needing further maintenance during an Oranga Tamariki inspection at the end of last year.

During the escape, which occurred just after 8.30pm, a staff member stepped in to take control of the situation.

After being confronted by the staff member, one of the group’s members allegedly used a makeshift weapon - a sharp object they’d obtained - to stab the staffer.

Oranga Tamariki confirmed a staff member was mildly injured.

The group managed to clamber to the rooftop of Te Puna Wai’s gym, where their escape triggered a mass emergency service callout from nearby police stations.

Oranga Tamariki confirmed a staff member was mildly injured in the incident. Photo / NZME

Oranga Tamariki confirmed a staff member was mildly injured in the incident. Photo / NZME

Police’s statement to media confirmed they arrived at the residence at around 8.38pm, where police “assisted in talking the youths down”.

One of the group members was taken into police custody and charged with common assault, while other charges are being considered for the remaining of the group.

Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive Rachel Leota told the media the agency would be conducting a review into the matter.

There are four youth justice residences in New Zealand.

Auckland is home to two: Korowai Manaaki in Wiri and Whakatakapokai in Weymouth. Another in Rotorua is called Te Maioha o Parekarangi.

According to the National Union of Public Employees (NEPU), all four of the nation’s youth justice residences have had “multiple abscondings” over the past 12 months.

It’s an issue that requires experience and perception from its staff members, something the union believes is lacking.

Te Puna Wai in Rolleston is an Oranga Tamariki facility that has a capacity for up to 40 young people. Photo / NZME

Te Puna Wai in Rolleston is an Oranga Tamariki facility that has a capacity for up to 40 young people. Photo / NZME

“There have been staffing shortages, which has started to improve, but they’re inexperienced,” national secretary Janice Gemmell said.

“When you’re dealing with clever, experienced youth you need to be really on your game and more training is needed. For example, staff need to understand how kids can access things from the outside.”

Staff turnover has been an issue at youth justice residences across the country, including Te Puna Wai, according to Gemmell.

Among the driving factors is staff frustration over having their every action and decision monitored on CCTV cameras throughout the facility.

Gemmell has seen numerous cases of split-second decisions made by staff, which last for mere seconds, be “taken to Wellington” where footage is put under the microscope and reviewed from every angle.

The union representative said it’s a big problem.

“Staff think there’s a big risk working in these places and they’re not prepared to take that risk when they have families and could lose their job easily,” she said.

“Every time there’s a need for physical intervention, it’s always scrutinised through the cameras. I don’t disagree with it, but it has to be realistic with the behaviour you manage.”

Oranga Tamariki has refused to comment on the matter any further because of the ongoing inquiry into the incident.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis told the Herald youth justice staff are doing “a great job in looking after some of the most challenging youth in the country”.

He noted the staff’s response to the situation, praising their work in containing the situation that he believes could have turned volatile.

“As with any incident like this, Oranga Tamariki will do a review to see if anything could have been done differently,” he said.

“I would expect changes to follow if that is the case.”

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you