12 Dec 2023

Oranga Tamariki fights 'not going to be tolerated anymore' minister says, after five staff, three teenagers hurt

6:09 pm on 12 December 2023
ACT Party MP Karen Chhour

Minister for Children Karen Chhour. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Five Oranga Tamariki staff and three young people were injured during a fight at a Christchurch youth justice facility on Monday night.

The new Minister for Children, Karen Chhour, said five teenagers instigated the fight at the Muriwai Unit at Te Puna Wai Youth Justice Residence.

Bad and unlawful behaviour in the youth justice facilities would no longer be tolerated, Chhour said.

"When incidences like this happen, and when young people act out and actually harm others within these facilities, it's not going to be tolerated anymore. There'll be consequences for bad behaviour."

Chhour said she had asked for advice on imposing tougher penalties on young people who assault others in youth justice facilities.

"I'm seeking advice on how we can make this work so that young people do understand that you can be rewarded, and there can be something to look forward to. But also, if you misbehave, they won't be rewarded for that bad behaviour."

The minister would not comment on what the possible rewards could be, saying she was still waiting for advice.

Te Puna Wai ō Tuhinapo residence manager Virginia Lavender said ambulance treated the injured staff and youth, with one taken to hospital for further assessment but has now returned to the residence.

"Youth Justice Residences can be dynamic and volatile environments. However, events such as this are completely unacceptable," Lavender said.

"Our staff should be able to attend work without the threat of assault. Rangatahi should feel safe around other rangatahi," she said.

"We are taking this situation extremely seriously."

Oranga Tamariki reported the incident to police, and the respective family and whānau of the rangatahi involved have been advised.

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