An iwi leader says the armed robbery of a Kaitaia dairy on Sunday by two teenagers was a direct result of the "limited windows of opportunity" young people have in the Far North.
North Road Dairy owner Dipika Patel was in the store when an armed 12-year-old boy, who police believe was on methamphetamine, entered demanding money at 8.35pm on Sunday.
CCTV footage shows him pointing a gun across the counter at Ms Patel.
With his face covered by a black bandanna, he tries to steal some sweets at the counter but appears intoxicated, stumbles and is unable to stuff them in his pockets.
An older boy, believed to be 15, was also involved.
But Te Rarawa iwi leader Haami Piripi told Newstalk ZB, while the images were "shocking", people shouldn't be too quick to demonise the teenagers.
He said it was an "economic phenomenon" that was being seen around the world and stemmed from a lack of basic needs such as healthcare, education and housing.
"It's terrible, it's shocking. The thing is that they are still children...young kids round here have virtually nothing to do, just walk up and down the street. It's a really hard hole to climb out of.
"The chances are that this is a continuing cycle. It's a really, really sad phenomenon."
Both boys are facing charges of aggravated robbery, while the younger of the pair will also be charged with assaulting and resisting police.
Police believed the rifle involved in the incident was not loaded at the time and no ammunition was found at the address the teen was found at.
Inquiries were being made into how the boy came to have a firearm.