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A 12-year-old Timaru boy stole his parents' people mover and led police on a 13-minute high-speed chase around the city's streets early on Saturday.

He was spotted by police while driving the seven-seater sport van with its lights off at 2.30am, The Timaru Herald reported.

As they tried to pull him over, the boy sped off toward the centre of town, before heading north.

He lost control of the van and was boxed in by three police cars, but reversed into another police car and shunted it out of the way to escape.

Police said the boy drove through stop signs on his way north on State Highway 1 to Temuka.

He then drove into a no-exit street, where he got out of the car and ran off, but was chased down by a police officer.

A police communications spokesperson told the newspaper the pursuit reached speeds of 140km/h.

The boy was taken back to the Timaru police station and his parents called.

He was too young to be charged but his parents' details would be given to the police's insurance company to recoup the cost of repairs to the patrol car's damaged front guard and wheel, Mid South Canterbury area controller Dave Gaskin said.

He raised concerns over the boy's care and protection, considering he was out driving at 2.30am.

- NZPA