National | Oranga Tamariki

Standoff with youths on Oranga Tamariki rooftop ends

The last of the young people on the rooftop came down after 10.30pm on Sunday, Oranga Tamariki said. Photo: RNZ / Philippa Tolley

All the young people who climbed onto the roof of a justice facility at the weekend have now come down, Oranga Tamariki says.

A group of eight climbed onto the roof of Korowai Manaaki facility in Wiri on Saturday, and five were still there on Sunday.

Oranga Tamariki said three came down about 6.30pm on Sunday, and the last two left the rooftop just after 10.30pm.

They are in police custody.

Oranga Tamariki said the group caused significant damage to parts of the Korowai Manaaki facilities.

"We are in the process of fully assessing the situation, but we know they have damaged parts of the roof, ceiling cavities and security cameras," Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive Tusha Penny said in a statement.

"While we are relieved that everyone is safe, we are also disappointed that it took so long to resolve."

"These young people were given multiple opportunities to make the right decision and to come down."

On Sunday, Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive Mike Bush said a large team of police were on site, communicating regularly with the teens via cell phone and radio and following established processes.

There was concern about the teens' safety during wet weather, but they had found a roof cavity to shelter in. Bush was overseeing negotiations, and said the young people were "within the boundary of the facility and there is no risk to public safety".

Facilities have 'design faults'

Children's and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said negotiation was the best approach and he supported the strategy Oranga Tamariki used.

"It's too dangerous for staff to have to go up on the roof," he said.

Davis told Morning Report he wasn't aware of any specific demands from the teens.

"They got up there and then they probably thought about what they wanted to do next," he said.

"They wanted things that teenagers want - fast food and things like that.

"If a low tech solution like fast food is what it takes to get the young people down then I support that."

Davis said the design of the roof cavity, allowing service people to access utilities in the building, was a weak point.

Once the teenagers reached the ceiling cavity they could move around in the unit, he said.

The facilities were built in 1990s for younger people, however a law change in 2019 allowed older teenagers to be in youth justice facilities.

"These older people are starting to cause problems, finding weak spots.

"Once police are finished their forensic work this morning there are infrastructure people going in to start doing the strengthening where it's needed".

"The facilities themselves have design faults I guess can call them."

Ceilings of even the secure units were gib board and there were places where if holes were punched, people could be pulled up from below - depending on spaces between beams.

"They can be strengthened ... that's why the infrastructure team is going in."