Police watchdog slams 'ill-considered' Armed Offenders Squad tactics during 2016 Kawerau siege

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has sharply criticised the tactics used by police during the armed siege near Kawerau in Bay of Plenty in March 2016.

Reporter Paul Hobbs is above the scene, where police vehicles are focusing on a rural property on Onepu Spring Rd. Source: 1 NEWS

Four police officers were shot by Rhys Warren after he fired at a police cannabis spotting aircraft, prompting an Armed Offender Squad response, and subsequent raid.

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

Warren surrendered after the overnight siege, and was later convicted of two charges of attempted murder, three counts of using a firearm against a law enforcement officer and one count of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. He was sentenced to preventative detention.

A full report into the incident, which took place on March 9 and 10, 2016 at two properties on Onepu Spring Road, was released today.


On March 9 2016 about 10.30am, Warren fired shots at a spotter plane conducting a cannabis removal operation near his house.

One officer was already on the property looking for plants, and was among a plot of cannabis plants hidden in a copse of blackberry bushes when he believes he was also shot at by Warren.

The officer fled and the Armed Offenders Squad was called in - they set up a cordon by about 1pm and police used a loud hailer to repeatedly ask Warren to surrender - he did not respond.

Police obtained the landline and mobile phone numbers for the property and Warren, and attempted numerous times to call him - he appeared to hang up on them four times, before letting the phone ring without answering.

Officers used a ballistic shield to make their way around the house, smashing windows and pulling out the net curtains to improve visibility, all the while calling out to Warren and urging him to surrender.

The broken glass now inside the property meant the use of police dogs was difficult, as the broken glass could potentially injure their feet, but a dog handler who eventually entered the property decided he could carry his dog over the glass and employ it if necessary.

Rhys Warren, accused of attempted murder, says he should have been safe inside his grandmother's home.
Rhys Warren. Source: 1 NEWS

The use of tear gas was also decided against, as the scene commander did not consider it justified due to uncertainty as to who was inside the property.


AOS members entered the house about 3.30pm and Warren was waiting in a bedroom at the end of a hallway.

He fired three shots, hitting three officers and badly wounding them.

One of the officers told the IPCA he felt the "hair on the back of [his] neck" stand up just before Warren opened fire.

The dog handler who entered the house was hit in the face by shrapnel from the scope of a rifle which had been shattered by one of Warren's shots.

He fell "straight back like a kauri tree" with "blood all over his face", according to the account of another officer, and received a serious brain injury requiring surgery and extensive rehabilitation.

Another felt a "punch" as he was hit in the left knee by shrapnel from a wooden cabinet - he later underwent surgery to remove embedded fragments.

The AOS members reported hearing "screaming" and "groaning" as they returned fire, forcing Warren to take cover, and the three wounded officers were dragged to safety.

Police fired a total of 46 shots back at Warren - none hit him.

Later that day about 5pm, Warren also shot another police officer who was stationed at the cordon.

Police are standing by their tactics and say the whole incident was handled "extremely well". Source: 1 NEWS

He remained inside the house until 9am the next day, when he gave himself up, much to the relief of worried whanau who had gathered at the scene.


"The tactical decision-making and control and command exercised by Police in response to shots fired near Kawerau on 9 March 2016 was highly flawed and placed Police officers at risk," the report reads.

"The decision to enter 158 was ill-considered and wrong.

"The Authority has found that the AOS officers should never have entered the Warren family's house, and that there was poor general understanding amongst officers at all levels about how control and command should have operated during different phases of the Police response.

"The lack of proper oversight was a strong contributing factor to the flawed tactical decisions."

The IPCA said two police officers did not follow correct procedure before entering the two properties, as they failed to notify the communications centre and also failed to carry out a risk assessment.

The use of a cordon in this situation was described as "aggressive" by the IPCA, and that "greater consideration should have been given to a less risky deployment tactic".

The IPCA said police were justified in shooting back at Warren during the incident and that good aftercare was given to the wounded officers.

Rhys Warren was responsible for the 22 hour siege in Kawerau last March. Source: 1 NEWS


Police say they accept the criticism in the report and have taken steps to remedy their shortcomings.

Assistant Commissioner Districts Bill Searle said in a statement that police conducted their own internal investigation into the incident, and that their findings were "consistent" with those of the IPCA.

"As a result Police have made a number of changes at both district and national level," Searle said.

One such change is ensuring all police dogs are issued protective boots for situations where there is a possibility their feet will be injured.

Police are also trialling a dog-mounted camera system which can provide a remote view to officers outside of a premises.

"Ultimately, incidents such as Operation Pencarrow are often complex and dynamic," Searle said.

"Circumstances can and do change very quickly and decisions have to be made based on the information available to officers at the time.

"The safety of our staff and members of the public is a strategic and operational priority for Police ... the fact four officers were injured in this incident is of great concern to us.

"The lessons learnt from our own review and the IPCA report into Operation Pencarrow have been carefully considered to ensure we operate in the safest and most effective way to protect both our staff and the community.

"Despite the issues raised by the IPCA, we note that the person responsible for shooting our staff was Rhys Warren."

But the IPCA report also found that police were justified in shooting Rhys Warren. Source: 1 NEWS


'Go out and give blood' - Jacinda Ardern urges Kiwis to sign up to bone marrow donor registry after young mum's leukaemia returns

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has taken to social media to urge New Zealanders to give blood and to be put on the bone marrow registry after a woman discovered her leukaemia had returned after giving birth.

Ms Ardern posted a photo of the woman and her young family on Instagram, captioning it, "This is Jo. You might have read about her in the paper this morning. Jo had a baby around the same time as I did, but after her baby arrived she found out that her leukaemia was back".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is urging Kiwis to give blood and to be added to the bone marrow donor registry. Source: Instagram / Jacinda Ardern

"I know Jo, and I also know that it's going to take finding a donor to help her get well. And this is the bit where we can make a difference to her, but potentially to lots of other people too.

The Prime Minister implored her followers to "go out "go out and give blood, and when you do, ask to be added to the bone marrow donor registry".

"Because of a whole range of complexities, I'm told that if you're a man with ancestry other than European, you're most likely to be added to the list because that's where the greatest need is. So please, spread the word. You could help save a life."

Jo and her young family. Source: Instagram / Jacinda Ardern


Police seeking witnesses after Lower Hutt pharmacy robbery

Wellington Police are investigating after a pharmacy was robbed in Lower Hutt this morning.

Police were called at around 10.50am following reports a man had entered the store armed with a craft knife.

The man left the scene with a small amount of prescription medication.

Police are examining the area and are following positive lines of inquiry.

Residents may notice an increased police presence in the area for the next few days while inquiries continue.

Police are seeking a man described to be in his 40s, around 178cm tall, and was wearing a grey hoodie, grey tracksuit pants and a grey check scarf around his face at the time of the incident.

He is believed to have left the scene either riding or pushing a bike.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or who may have information about the man involved has been advised to contact Wellington Police on (04) 381 2000, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Source: 1 NEWS


Meet the Auckland couple rescuing bees and putting them on rooftops

Up on a roof top of a two-storey coffee store in the Auckland suburb of Mount Eden, urban beekeeper Jess Baker tends to her beehives.

“My favourite bees are the guard bees,” says Jess, dressed in a beekeeper’s suit and armed with a smoker.

“They stand at the entrance of each hive and they smell every bee coming in and out of the hive and if a wasp tries to get in you see those bees fight the wasp out at the entrance.

“There’s a whole little community going on inside that hive.”

With her fiance Luke Whitfield, Jess carefully and gently inspects the two boxes the pair have handcrafted for the bees, extracting the honey from the hives to give to Kokako coffee roasters below.

This process is a regular task for Jess, who gave up her career as a graphic designer to rescue swarms of bees from exterminators and re-home them.

For five years these urban beekeepers have been extracting bees, but it was a trip to Bolivia that the business idea Bees Up Top was born.

“I just came up with it one night. I couldn’t sleep, and we were thinking about when we get home what we were going to do,” says Luke.

“We both were at that stage pretty passionate about bees and we came up with this idea and ran with it.”

Why put bees up on rooftops?

“Rooftops are such unutilised spaces so they’re perfect for bees,” says Jess.

The hives can’t be stolen, vandalised and damaged on rooftops, a further appeal for the pair.

“It gives us a bit of peace of mind where we know at night time our bees are safe,” says Luke.

On getting a call that there’s a swarm, Luke and Jess will arrive, take the bees and ferry them out to Bethells Beach west of Auckland before they’re rehomed on a rooftop.

There are currently 21 hives on rooftops and backyards across Auckland.

They cost around $1,000 per year to have, but in return the couple inspect the hives once a month and harvest fresh honey for the owners.

They say business is booming and despite their urban location, bees are thriving on Auckland’s green parks and flowering backyards.

Quick bee facts:

Jess and Luke aren’t the only ones passionate about bees with currently 887, 510 registered beehives and 8,000 hobbyist and professional beekeepers in New Zealand.

- New Zealand’s has a healthy bee population, but the risk to their colonies are very real.

- According to the Ministry of Primary Industries, New Zealand’s bee colony losses are lower than many other countries where numbers are declining.

- Bees are a vital part of our economy, bringing $5 billion a year, with a third of our food production in New Zealand relying on bees to pollinate.

Jess and Luke are rescuing bees and rehoming them on people’s roofs. Source: 1 NEWS

Putting an end to the 'fat stigma' - Govt need law banning fat discrimination, expert says

The government needs to pass legislation banning the discrimination of overweight people, a health expert says.

The calls come to try and put an end to "fat-stigma".

University of Otago healthcare senior lecturer Lesley Gray said it was illegal to discriminate against people on a range of issues but not their weight.

"We have legislation for many other groups who have been discriminated against and even though we have more people in the world who are overweight, it's one of the few things in the world that has no discrimination legislation."

She said "fat-stigma" was rife.

"In employment, people who are overweight are likely to experience less employment opportunities and school children, who are overweight are more likely to report being bullied."

Ms Gray said discrimination against overweight people was very harmful.

"Examples of that can be significant abuse or verbal taunts. It can even be mini-aggressions like eye-rolling and tutting.

"People can actually be emotionally affected, they can develop anxiety, low self-esteem, depression and experience social rejection or social isolation."

She said social norms had to change.

"For many years we've been telling people being overweight is unhealthy - which for some people that's true.

"One of the biggest misnomers about weight stigma is actually telling someone they're fat - not only does it not change them generally in terms of being less fat - but it can harm them and lead them to developing more fatness because they feel so poor about themselves."

She said this included how overweight people were portrayed in the media.

"The stock footage of 'fatties' usually involves a man with a beer belly wearing a vest with stains on it. So the image we portray is that people who are fat may be slovenly, lazy, non-deserving and not actually real people.

"In New Zealand about 60 per cent of our population's overweight so you all know people who are overweight and is that how you think of your own family? Probably not.

"So for friends and family…we know they're not lazy and don't smell and is actually a person. But when we keep replicating this on headless fatty images on media when we're talking about obesity that's the image we have."

Ms Gray said just because someone looked overweight did not mean they were unhealthy.

rnz.co.nz- Emma Hatton

Overweight child
Overweight child (file picture). Source: istock.com