17 Apr 2009

Accusations traded over Maori rehab unit proposal

10:05 pm on 17 April 2009

A war of words has erupted between the Maori Party and the Labour Party over a proposal for new Maori rehabilitation units.

Labour has accused the Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples of trying to establish a separatist, race-based justice system.

Dr Sharples has suggested an alternative rehabilitation centre to be established for Maori prisoners, independent of existing prisons, which he says would help prisoners return to society after they have served their term and reduce their risk of reoffending.

He says all offenders would be welcome, but there would be a focus on Maori language and tikanga.

Labour's law and order spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove says Dr Sharples wants separate Maori prisons and courts, and this proposal is the first step.

He says he is opposed to a Pakeha rapist getting jail time, while a Maori rapist gets to 'go flatting'.

Dr Sharples described the statement as over the top, and playing the race card.

Mr Cosgrove has responded by saying the minister is using the racist label as a means of stifling debate.