A Maori representative to the United Nations says kaumatua should have the power to pass sentence in marae based youth courts.
Te Kooti Rangatahi started in 2008 and is held on 10 different marae, with Maori protocol in the proceedings.
The offender is expected to learn and recite a mihi (a traditional greeting in te reo Maori) and kai is shared between all involved before a sentence is imposed by the judge.
UN indigenous issues forum vice-chair Valmaine Toki said the mana of kaumatua is undermined when a judge, who doesn't affiliate to the marae, has the final say on the marae.
She said kaumatua ultimately take responsibility for the offender and community, and should have the same standing as a judge in Rangatahi Court.
Ms Toki said sentences could be passed by a panel including the judge and kaumatua, or more Maori judges could be sought.
Her comments echo that of a Waikato University criminal law lecturer, Matiu Dickson, who says the marae community should have the right to decide how low-risk young offenders are dealt with.