An Auckland Council review into the safety of drain covers following the tragic death of teenager Violet Tupou has ruled they are safe for managing stormwater but lockable grates will be trialled.

The council ordered the two-part review after 17-years-old Tupou's body was found lodged head-first in a stormwater drain in South Auckland on June 4, 2017.

It's not known how Tupou came to be in the drain, but it is believed she may have been trying to retrieve a tennis ball.

Tupou, who was autistic, lived locally and was playing with other children when she died near Enuamanu Rd in Mangere.


Her death sparked a safety probe from Auckland Council into the drain covers, with questions from the young woman's family and community leaders as to why they were not bolted down.

Community leader Lemauga Lydia Sosene earlier pleaded with council officials for action to be taken to prevent another tragedy.

"The crux of the issue is asking the council to review the design. Is there any way that these drain lids can be locked? I realise it's difficult, with thousands across the region ... but our children's lives are worth it," Sosene said.

Today, the council released the review findings, confirming that "catchpits", when used as designed and intended, were a safe asset for managing stormwater.

The review found although there were about 118,000 catchpits across the Auckland region, serious incidents were extremely rare.

Violet Tupou died after she went head-first into a drain on June 4, 2017. Photo / Facebook
Violet Tupou died after she went head-first into a drain on June 4, 2017. Photo / Facebook

It found that the likelihood of a person becoming stuck in a catchpit, leading to death, was rare and that none of the hazards associated with catchpits were considered high or of extreme risk.

However, the report identified several other risks around catchpits, not necessarily associated with drowning, that led to a series of recommendations being made to address these risks.

The recommendations included improving public awareness around the safest process for retrieving items from catchpits, and minimising the chance of blockages and flooding.


It also recommended that the Council worked to design a lockable drain cover and consider an update to the Code of Practice accordingly.

Subsequently, Auckland Council have installed and are trialling a spring bar locking catchpit at two locations in South Auckland.

Director of infrastructure and environmental services Barry Potter said staff remained deeply saddened by Violet Tupou's death.

Her family have requested privacy.

"Our thoughts have very much been with Violet's family, who now face their first Christmas without their precious daughter," Potter said.

"It has been a very difficult time for them and the wellbeing of the family has been a priority for us throughout this process.

Flowers at the site of the death of Violet Tupou. Photo / Aupito Su'a William Sio via Facebook
Flowers at the site of the death of Violet Tupou. Photo / Aupito Su'a William Sio via Facebook

"This review highlighted that incidents involving catchpits are very rare, and that they are generally a safe piece of infrastructure. However, we are working closely with Auckland Transport to take steps to further enhance the safety of our catchpits."

Over the past five years, Auckland Transport received 3513 service requests for repairs to catchpits.

Of the total requests, 2811 were for missing or dislodged catchpit grates and the remaining 702 were for broken catchpit grates, frames or backing plates.

"We treat missing catchpit grates as an emergency and aim to respond to them within one hour," Potter said.

Within that five year period, Auckland Transport was advised of seven instances where people were injured by falling into a catchpit.

Six of these instances involved a member of the public falling into a catchpit due to a missing catchpit grate. One incident was due to a broken catchpit backing plate, where a person slipped into the gap.

In most cases the victim suffered bruising, grazes, or cuts to their legs.

"We'd like to ask people to stay safe around drains by not removing drain grills or covers.

"Auckland Council will retrieve items lost down a public drain or catchpit at no charge within four hours," Potter said.

"If you see any being removed or missing please notify us immediately on 09 301 0101."

Violet Tupou's death has been referred to the coroner.