Iwi panels for offenders to be expanded

8:02 pm on 28 November 2017

Alternative iwi panels have reduced incarceration rates among Māori and are in high demand across the country, police say.

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Photo: RNZ Aaron Smale

Three pilot panels were set up in Lower Hutt, Gisborne and Counties Manukau in 2014 in a push to divert lower-level offenders away from the courts.

The panels consist of at least one member of the police, community members and kaumatua with the aim of helping offenders talk about underlying issues that contribute to bad behaviour and ways they can re-intergrate back into the community.

Police assistant commissioner and deputy chief executive Wallace Haumaha said in the last three years, iwi panels have helped keep Māori in those areas away from prison.

"Three years' worth of data showed us that we were able to have a downturn in re-offending in the 17 to 24-year-old age bracket by 11.9 percent."

There was a high demand for iwi panels from Māori organisations across the country now, who had been to visit the panels and seen their benefits, he said.

The panels focused on the offender's whakapapa, whānau, income, and background in order to understand why an offender had committed a crime.

Rather than putting low-level offenders into prison, the focus should be on upskilling them to get into long-term employment, and looking at better alternative options to change bad behaviour and mindsets, Mr Haumaha said.

"This is Māori communities taking responsibility for the behaviour of people in their communities, but also helping them to re-engage them back into the community where they can be far more productive, rather than putting them into prison for a short term where they pick up all the wrong habits."

Iwi panels will now be established in Rotorua, Ngātu Whatua Orakei, Hastings and Northland and a long-term goal has been set to have them roll out in every district, he said.

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