Tobacco smuggled out of Wellington factory sold on social media

Police are warning they'll come down hard on people buying and selling stolen tobacco products after much of a haul worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was sold on social media.

Two staff members have admitted stealing around $120,000 worth of products each from a Wellington tobacco factory. Source: 1 NEWS

The warning comes as violent robberies increase and fuel the tobacco black market. 

"It's an offense if you buy stolen products. Like, if a deal is too good to be true, it is too good to be true," said Inspector Bronwyn Marshall of Wellington Police. 

The product usually ends up overseas, but in a case that's seen four men in the Hutt Valley District Court, most of the stolen goods were sold locally on social media. 

Workers at the Imperial Tobacco factory in Petone have admitted stealing tobacco products.

The tobacco wasn't taken in a robbery, but in an inside job by 10 staff members and an associate. 

Yesterday, four of those 10 appeared in court.

Two staff members have admitted stealing around $120,000 worth of products each.

"CCTV footage shows the defendants working together to remove a large number of sports bags full of tobacco products from the site," a police officer told the court.

Three workers were caught on CCTV smuggling the tobacco out in black bags. One was seen making inserts into bags and hallowing out a loaf of bread to hide the product.

Another is a security guard who helped get the product out of the factory.

The Imperial Tobacco factory has been labelled a good employer in the past and jobs there are sought after.

Those who appeared yesterday will be sentenced in November.

Two other members of the group, including another security guard, have name suppression. 



Horowhenua's new mayor refuses to enter 'cracked' council building

Horowhenua's incoming mayor is off to a shaky start, refusing to enter the council building.

Michael Feyen believes the Horowhenua District Council building is unsafe and could be an earthquake risk.

"It's a health and safety issue as far as I'm concerned," Mr Feyen told 1 NEWS.

The mayor-elect first raised concerns about the council building a-year-and-a half ago, when he filmed footage in the basement. 

In that footage, he pointed out "definite cracks" in the floor and said, "the building is obviously dropping on one side". 

He called for an independent structural assessment to be done to prove it's not an earthquake risk. 

"One would expect if you have those concerns, express it to a CEO and they would look at it. But it just hasn't happened," Mr Feyen said today. 

The council's chief executive, David Clapperton, says two reports have already been done, both indicating the building is safe. 

"I've given assurance on a number of occasions that this building is safe and sound. My position has not changed because the mayor elect has an opinion on the structural integrity," Mr Clapperton said. 

With Mr Feyen refusing to enter the building, his swearing in and possibly even the first council meeting have been moved to the local library.

However, it's now known that was also a project by the same company behind the council buildings.

The company has also rejected the claims, saying they are confident in the engineering work on the building. 

Mr Feyen said: "If the structural engineers say 'well, you definitely had a right to give us a call but we think it'll be all right, or this and that needs doing' so be it. I stand by that"

The decision on whether another report is done will be made by the council. 

Michael Feyen just wants an answer so he can get into the building and get on with the job. 

Michael Feyen believes there is an earthquake risk but the council’s CEO has brushed aside his concerns, reassuring staff. Source: 1 NEWS

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Education minister says school fight intervention issue is 'for each school to manage'

Education Minister Hekia Parata says she can't comment on individual cases, but said the issue of violence in schools and teachers intervening is "one for each school to manage".

Last night, 1 News ran a story that showed footage of teachers standing by while a fight happened right in front of them on August 29 at Rosehill College - Papakura's largest college.

In the footage, two pupils trade a number of blows as staff members wearing high-visibility vests look on and call for backup on walkie talkies, until year 13 pupils are asked by the teachers to break up the fight.

The footage illustrates a point raised earlier this month by the Secondary Principals' Association, who said legislation around what teachers can and can not do while intervening in physical altercation is inadequate and needs updating.

"We have been working with the unions and the with the sector to get good guidelines on how schools manage these outbreaks," Ms Parata said.

"I expect that they will supervise appropriately, I expect that they will take the appropriate action that's within their means, I expect that with the investment we're making in positive behaviour for learning, for instance, that there's a good school culture that has been created, but I also expect students to behave respectfully.

"I expect parents and family and whanau to establish high expectations of their young people so this is not all the responsibility of schools."

The SPA has also again weighed in to the issue since the new footage emerged, with association president Sandy Pasley saying while guidelines are on their way, they are "long overdue" in terms of providing clarity.

"It's very tough because teachers naturally want to protect students from harm," she said, adding that it was "natural instinct" for teachers to want to step in.

Rosehill College principal Sue Blakely said her teachers have been told that they do not have to directly get between students when they fight if they do not feel comfortable doing so.

"I, as principal, have told staff that their safety must come first, and not to intervene or put themselves at risk, especially by getting between students if they are fighting," Ms Blakely said.

"If it had been males out there on duty they may well have restrained [the pupils], but that would have been their choice because they felt they were able to do so and preserve their own safety.

"Nobody comes to work to end up being assaulted for whatever reason ... even if it's completely unintentional - it's traumatic.

"We have not had a staff member deliberately hit by a student, but we have had a couple of instances when a teacher has been glancingly hit or pushed while intervening."

New guidelines coming

A spokesperson for the Minister of Education Hekia Parata last night told 1 News that schools do need clear guidance on what to do when these situations come up and what their powers are, and they are working on an updated guide.

"Next term the Ministry of Education expects to release two guides for schools – one on seclusion and the other on restraint – drawn up with an advisory group made up of principals, unions, trustees, and the Ministry of Health," the spokesperson said.

"Schools will be advised that physical restraint should only be used in emergencies when a student's behaviour poses an imminent danger of injury to themselves and others.

"Where a student can’t be managed safely and there is imminent danger to anyone, police should be called.

"The guides were due to be released in September ... however there were some differing views from members of the advisory group on whether teachers needed more powers under legislation to deal with the very rare, potentially violent situations.

"The Ministry has now agreed that the release should go ahead while advice is developed for the Minister on options for any additional statutory protections for teachers.

"Any change to the law, if that is a desirable option, would take some time, and schools need clear advice in the meantime."

Additional reporting by Chris Chang