ACT slams Oranga Tamariki for giving unruly teens KFC to end 24-hour roof stand-off at youth justice facility

ACT is claiming New Zealand is a "dying nation" after it was revealed five youth offenders were given KFC to end a 24-hour rooftop stand-off. 

The stand-off began on Saturday when five youth offenders at the Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo youth justice facility near Christchurch escaped onto the roof. One came down on Saturday evening. 

Oranga Tamariki Deputy Chief Executive Mike Bush told Newshub a staff member was injured and suffered a fractured wrist.

The five teenagers allegedly took a set of keys from a guard in a unit at the facility, escaped to the roof and refused to come down, according to Stuff

Offenders on the roof at the Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo youth justice facility near Christchurch.
Offenders on the roof at the Te Puna Wai o Tuhinapo youth justice facility near Christchurch. Photo credit: Newshub

The standoff ended after around 24 hours when the remaining four members, who remained on the roof overnight, came down and were taken into police custody. 

It's reported the offenders smashed their way into the roof cavity and hurled projectiles at people on the ground below.

It's now been confirmed to Newshub fast food was given to the four offenders to help negotiate an end to the stand-off. Stuff reports KFC was given to the teenagers after they surrendered. 

"These are vulnerable young people, and our first approach will always be to use the least harmful ways to convince them to come down safely on their own terms," Bush told Newshub.

"Fast food was part of the negotiations and additional items were also used to attempt to bring the young people down throughout the day and overnight, such as clothing and hot drinks."

This hasn't gone down well with ACT Party leader David Seymour who says the reward for the five youths for attempting to escape a facility, damage taxpayer property and injuring a staff member is KFC. 

"These are Labour's values in action and they will doom a nation. It also shows why youth imprisonment should be done by Corrections instead of Oranga Tamariki," Seymour said. 

Youth crime and crime, in general, have been a hot topic over the last year, with ram-raids, burglaries and assaults a common headline in the news.  

Seymour said everyday Kiwis who pay their taxes and follow the rules are terrorised by criminals in their workplaces, have their cars broken into and feel unsafe when they're out walking. 

"But their money is used to reward people who don't follow the rules. At the heart of New Zealand's crime problem is that failure of values," Seymour said. 

"Labour's priorities are reducing the prison population, removing three strikes, funding cultural reports for convicted crims pre-sentencing, and now giving KFC to escapees. Everything but the rights of law-abiding New Zealanders."

Seymour said crime is "out of control" in New Zealand and it's time to restore the values of right and wrong. 

"Right now youth offenders know nobody can touch them. They now know if they're really bad they might even get KFC! They ignore police sanctions because the end game is they're untouchable," Seymour said. 

"It's infuriating for police and victims alike. They need to be told, 'If you keep doing this, you'll be taken to a place without your phone and it won't be fun, you won't like it, and you better believe it.'" 

ACT Party leader David Seymour says crime is "out of control".
ACT Party leader David Seymour says crime is "out of control". Photo credit: AM

Bush told Newshub senior site staff members were involved in de escalating the situation while police and Fire and Emergency NZ assisted them.

"This was a serious and dangerous incident and the safety of the young people on the roof was always our priority," Bush said. 

"We were very concerned about them slipping and falling and we had to take that into consideration when working to get them down." 

In situations like this, Bush said Oranga Tamariki works alongside police to engage in reasonable negotiations, particularly where the situation can be resolved by minimising the harm and risk to anyone involved.

Bush confirmed despite the damage to the facility it's still safe to operate, but the cost of the destruction is not yet known. 

"Although breaking into the roof cavity is not ideal, the situation remained contained and at no point did any of the young people exit the grounds of the facility," Bush said.

"As I've outlined previously, I am beginning my rapid review of the residences with urgency. We will share the findings of our review as soon as it is complete.

"I am committed to ensuring Oranga Tamariki residences are safe places for tamariki and rangatahi."  

When Newshub asked Minister for Children Kelvin Davis about why KFC was provided to the youth offenders, he said it was an operational issue handled by Oranga Tamariki with the assistance of police.

"The aim is always to bring incidents like this to an end as quickly as possible to ensure the safety of all involved, including staff and the public," Davis told Newshub.

"All sorts of negotiation tactics are used during events like these. Oranga Tamariki and police could rush up on a roof and tackle these kids but that is a huge risk to safety."

The young people involved will now face consequences for their actions, which is now a matter for police.