by Selwyn Manning
Manurewa residents near the proposed Youth Justice Residential Centre earmarked for Roscommon Road in Wiri have received a PR pack in the mail today.
The Youth Justice centre will house up to 46 young people, mostly aged between 14 and 17.
Children Young Persons and their Families Agency spokesperson, Andy Gillies, says the centre will be secure and a timely replacement facility for Weymouth’s Northern Residential Centre where youth justice youths are currently held.
Nearby Clendon and Manurewa residents have been asked to fill out a questionaire which asks them whether they know of any reason a youth justice facility should not be built on the site. It also asks what conditions should be considered before the centre goes ahead and what other comments they would like to make.
Public meetings will be held at Manurewa Marae on Roscommon Road and at a Manurewa community house within the next few weeks.
Manurewa MP George Hawkins is critical of yesterday’s announcement, saying local residents are fed up with the area being used as a dumping ground for young people in trouble. Mr Hawkins says south Auckland is in danger of becoming the prison capital of New Zealand.
Andy Gillies says the site is ideal because it is far from the nearest homes, but close to essential services.
However, Scoop has noted the centre is only about five minutes walk from the high density housing suburbs of Clendon and Homai. Also the youth justice centre neighbours an inner Manukau Harbour estuary, lined with mangrove and reserve farmland and is adjacent to the historic Stonefields, a waahi tapu area and prized by archeologists for its unique artifacts.
The land is near Wiri Mountain and is zoned as "non-residential" by Manukau City Council. Locals will know the site as being where a drive-in movie enterprise was operating some two years ago. Watercare Services fought local iwi in the Environment Court after protests against a sewerage pipeline over burial grounds halted construction progress.
Also, Department of Corrections had intended to build a men's prison on the site. However, local iwi protested against Crown plans.
Tangatawhenua said a respected Rangatira, Te Takanini, who the south Auckland township of Takanini was so named, had last century been executed by Government troops on the Roscommon Road land. To build a men's prison there was an insult, the iwi had insisted.
A compromise was met between Corrections Department and iwi to shelve plans for the men's prison and place a youth justice facility on the site.
The new centre will hold up to 40 youths who have been arrested, remanded, or sentenced by the Youth Court.
six beds will be available for youths who are unable to
serve sentences in prison due to being vulnerable to abuse,
attack or intimidation, or because of a lack of maturity.