A 12-year-old child home alone when armed police raided a suspected P-lab in Gate Pa has been described as a "really lovely, well-mannered boy".
Neighbours told of the Tauranga Intermediate student doing odd jobs to pay for swimming lessons and presents for his mother, and said their hearts went out to him when they saw him walk out of the house alone to face armed police.
Police, including the Armed Offenders Squad, swooped on a two-storey Tamworth Place house they believed housed a P lab about 6.30am yesterday.
The Fire Service's hazardous materials unit was on hand to decontaminate AOS members and their equipment. The street was cordoned off for several hours as police surrounded then searched the property.
Police said the 12-year-old boy was handed over to Child, Youth and Family.
Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner, the head of Tauranga CIB, said a clandestine drug laboratory team and ESR forensic scientists were to conduct a thorough scene examination today.
A Tauranga man was charged with possession of methamphetamine for supply and possession of precursor materials. He was expected to appear in court today.
Police said the boy's mother, who is understood to also live at the address, was yet to be spoken to.
Shocked Gate Pa residents told the Bay of Plenty Times they were dumbfounded to learn the reason armed police were at the house.
"I thought we had a lovely street," one resident said.
A teenager who lived nearby said he watched the raid unfold after being woken at about 5.30am and was shocked to see "heaps of police with guns" and a dog squad surrounding the house.
He heard police repeatedly calling out several names using a loud hailer, trying to get the occupants to come outside. Eventually he saw the boy walk out of the house.
"He took ages to come outside and the armed police were talking to him for quite a while. He looked a bit stunned and was probably quite scared."
A boy who lived next to the house said he was surprised to see "'a good 28-30" police had descended on the property.
He knew the boy who lived at the house, describing him as a "really good kid".
"When I found out he was home by himself I was shocked and felt sorry for him waking up to that. When I saw the police pointing guns at him I felt sad and concerned but when I went over to try to comfort him, I was told to go away."
Another Tamworth Pl resident who did not wish to be named said she got a "quite a fright" when she was woken from a deep sleep about 5.30am to "really loud voices" calling out to come out of the house "because it was surrounded".
She said because she was still half asleep she initially thought the command was directed at her.
"I was still in my pyjamas and couldn't imagine what I had done wrong and got the real fright when I saw a police officer with a gun standing near my front fence. I didn't know what to do at first. He told me to go back inside because it was quite dangerous ... When I was told a suspected P-lab my immediate thought was for the young lad at the house," she said.
"I can only imagine how frightening it was for this little boy, he must have been petrified and my heart goes out to him."
The woman said the boy had asked if he could do odd jobs to earn pocket money to pay for swimming lessons and buy his mother a Christmas present. She would oblige because he was a "really lovely well-mannered boy."
She said she was surprised a suspected P-lab was found at the house.
Another resident further up the road said: "My first thought was for this poor little kid. It's so disgusting."
Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair, Western Bay of Plenty police area tactical response manager, said a number of items of interest were found at the address and inquires were ongoing after a suspected P-lab was found at the property.
Tauranga Intermediate principal Brian Diver confirmed the boy was a student at his school and had attended class on Tuesday.
Mr Diver said he received a phone call from the police yesterday morning saying the student would not be at school.
Housing New Zealand confirmed the house was one of its properties but would not comment.
Peter McKenna, regional tenancy services manager, said: "We do not tolerate tenants using their premises for criminal acts and will evict tenants when evidence is obtained.
"Housing New Zealand works closely with the police when a P-laboratory is suspected and we charge tenants for any damages they are responsible for."