In a quiet street of Ōtūmoetai tucked away, there is a brick house which looks like any other. The bright three-bedroom home is an inviting place. "Lose your shoes" is printed on the doormat but the plush new carpet comforts you as you walk inside. However, solid locks are bolted on to every bedroom, no smoking and emergency exit information signs are dotted around the house and there is a schoolroom at the front - all hints this is no ordinary home.

The most unlikely justice facility can be found nestled in the middle of Ōtūmoetai, called Whare Tuhua.

Known as a community remand home, it can house up to three youths while they wait for their trials. The boys, aged 13 to 17, are supervised around the clock and have "house parents" who live with them.

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The whare's biggest supporter is neighbour June who is excited to see the first residents come through.

"These boys will be away from their bad influencers here and this group have more chance of helping these young boys.

"Even if they can turn around one in three boys that would be good," said June , who did not want to use her surname.

The unassuming home, which officially opened last Friday and is expected to start housing its first tenants next week, is the future of the youth justice system and one of 16 remand homes being developed over the next four years - thanks to an investment from the Budget of $27 million.

"The sad thing is, often this is the best environment [these boys] have ever lived in," said Minister for Children Tracey Martin while she visited on Wednesday.

"Treat them like human beings because that's what they are. They're kids who have had really crappy lives, who, given an opportunity, want to live a different way but they have never seen a different way to live."

The home is the most unlikely prison.

The boys will have structured days starting with karakia, followed by school lessons. They cook for themselves and can even burn off steam at the local gym (with supervision).

Whare kaitiaki George Kahika (Whakatohea) said the remand homes avoid one of the worst aspects of incarceration - tearing teenagers away from whānau.


"We also want to pique the interests in these young fellas because you don't have to be naughty to be fun. If we can do that I think we are winning."

Tē Tuinga Whānau Support Services Trust had been working alongside Oranga Tamariki to establish the whare and chief imagination officer Tommy Wilson hoped the trust could make a lasting change.

"How cool would it be to put these boys through here, they don't go to jail and they actually go and get a job, that is what we are trying to achieve. The whare is the incubator."

• Average of 170 young people in youth justice facilities at any one time.
• 70 per cent are on remand.
• Youth justice population will rise by 40 per cent in July as 17-year-olds enter the system.
• Nine remand homes have been set up, and many more on the way.