A Northland man who was deported from Australia after committing serious crime there robbed a service station to pay a drug debt he owed to a well-known gang.

It was revealed in the Whangarei District Court this week that Joshua Tupe, 28, racked up significant criminal convictions across the Tasman, including serving a five-year jail term on a charge of robbery while armed with an offensive weapon.

He has also appeared in court in Australia on a number of violent offences. It's not known when he was deported to New Zealand.

Tupe was sentenced this week to four years and six months in jail for the aggravated robbery of Caltex in Dargaville on November 8 last year.

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He had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of unlawfully taking a motor vehicle, and single charges of aggravated robbery, arson, escaping from police custody, and possession of cannabis.

He used a Landrover Discovery he stole from Whangarei to rob the service station of $573 in cash and coins and more than $2354 worth of cigarettes and tobacco.

After the robbery, Tupe set the vehicle alight in a carpark at Dargaville High School but the fire extinguished itself, only partially damaging clothing he wore during the armed hold-up using a 25cm knife.

His DNA was found on the inside of a glove in the vehicle.

Tupe's lawyer, Kelly Ellis, said he was very remorseful and that his addiction to meth resulted in a drug debt with a well-known gang. The gang was not named.

She said Tupe was "literally dumped" in New Zealand when he was deported without any support.

Crown lawyer Kyle Macneil said all victims were greatly affected, especially the Caltex staff who have had extreme personal contact with Tupe during the robbery.

Judge Greg Davis said Tupe has a significant criminal history in both Australia and New Zealand for violence and dishonesty offences.

Tupe's mother lodged $3000 with the Ministry of Justice to be paid out as reparation to the victims.

Judge Davis ordered Tupe to pay $1000 to each of the two staff of Caltex, $700 to cover insurance for two vehicles he stole, including the Landrover Discovery and a Nissan Navara, and $300 to the service station for loss of property.

After his arrest on January 11, police recovered 2.5 cannabis tinnies from his shirt pocket.

While in the custody area of the Dargaville police station, Tupe scaled an internal wall about 4.5 metres high, smashed a panel in the ceiling and got onto the roof.

He ran across the roof to the rear of the station, jumped down and was arrested at the back of the station.