Government doesn't have key details on new youth justice policy

The Government is embarking on a youth crime spree of its own with a trilogy of policies designed to crack down on crime. 

The Government on Tuesday said it would build two new youth justice units for up to 30 of the highest-needs youth.

It also wants to change the law to allow broader search powers to prevent contraband, implement changes for better family group conferences - along with more resources - and if a young person is involved in a ram raid or smash and grab they will now be automatically referred to a family group conference.

Fight clubs, escapes and roof protests, our youth justice facilities are in a state. 

"It's no secret that there have been some serious issues in youth justice," said Minister for Children Kelvin Davis. 

Part of the string of problems is the introduction of 17-year-olds to the facilities. They’re bigger, stronger, and need more intensive work.

"There's a big difference between a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old and the support and the guidance that they need," said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. 

So the Government will build new units for the most difficult youths, as well as redesigning their care model.

At the current facilities, there will be new search powers for contraband and stronger power for time-outs if the kids are getting too rowdy. That's as well as fixing the youths on roofs problem.

"I'm not saying they're not fit for purpose, I think that there are design flaws so without getting into the finicky details there are climbing points that can be mitigated," said Davis.

The latest in the Government's crime crackdown, this policy is so rushed the Government had no key details like how long it would take.

"We haven't got a timetable for how long the residences will take to build," said Hipkins. 

Or how much it would cost. 

"The design has to be done before you can come up with a cost," said Hipkins. 

Or even which youths it would send to the new facilities.

Asked what was the minimum age of someone who could end up in one of the new youth justice facilities, Davis said: "In the new? In the youth justice facilities, I believe it's 12".

Then said: "It will be for the older young people".

And then: "I have a preference right now for it to be the older end of the spectrum but we will confirm those details."

"We haven't made a decision." 

He eventually capitulated and said he’d look at a minimum age. 

"Look we can set a minimum age. What I'm saying is at the moment we will work through the model of care but even if there were young people in them then there would be ways to keep them separate."

National's corrections spokesperson Mark Mitchells said it was like a "couple of keystone cops up there trying to answer".

"They've got no idea."

"It hasn’t been thought through. It's obviously back of the envelope, its knee jerk."

The Government is trying to get itself back on track after its drag of distractions.

Former minister Michael Wood returned to Parliament on Tuesday. 

"A lot of people have sorta said, look you silly goose, you have got this wrong."

He confirmed he would be standing at the election.

Kiri Allan also returned.

"I love this job. I have got a fire in my belly for change."

Asked whether all of his ministers would stand at the election, Hipkins said: "None have indicated otherwise to me."

But the tax cracks have appeared.

Revenue Minister David Parker didn't like the captain's call made by Hipkins to dump his wealth tax.

"I am disappointed in that decision. This is clear from the papers that I supported it, but that is life and I am a loyal member of the Labour Party."

Cabinet collective responsibility be damned.

"I have got no current intention to resign," said Parker.

Asked if there are cracks in his Cabinet, Hipkins said: "No, not at all. There are always a variety of views on these things."

But National Party leader Christopher Luxon said: "The bottom line though is that this Labour Party is divided on tax."

Asked if his Government could keep it together until the election, Hipkins said: "Absolutely".