A new remand service will be launched in Northland for young offenders whose crimes are serious enough for them to be locked up while awaiting trial.

Last year, of 500 nationwide, 28 youths from the Tai Tokerau region — 26 of them Māori — were remanded into the custody of Oranga Tamariki.

The pilot service, called Mahuru, aims to keep youth out of jail by putting them into caregiver homes with wrap-around social and justice services, and a strong emphasis on tikanga Ngāpuhi.

The partnership scheme between Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services (NISS) and Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children) is being launched today.


The scheme is a response to concerns that better care options need to be provided to young offenders locked up far from home.

Mahuru aimed to reduce the risk of re-offending through one-on-one care, strengthening cultural values and tribal connections, NISS general manager Liz Marsden said.

''This is an opportunity to provide an innovative, bespoke and values-based response driven by our own Ngāpuhi values, principles and narratives,'' Marsden said.

The new approach showed a commitment by Ngāpuhi to take more responsibility for looking after its young people who have seriously offended, she said.

It would also bring positivity and new opportunities for the youths to improve their lives.

Aroha Tahere, youth justice manager for Oranga Tamariki in Te Tai Tokerau Northland, said Mahuru would keep young offenders in their own communities instead of placing them in remand facilities elsewhere in New Zealand where they had no existing relationships or connections.

Mahuru would also give the Police and Youth Courts an option to consider when a young person committed a serious crime. They would spend time away from home but in a safe, stable and positive environment while awaiting their court hearing.

Each young person would be assessed on a range of matters, such as the level and nature of offending, their mental health and any concerning behaviours. Considerations such as caregiver, whanau, community and victims' safety would also be to the fore.


Aroha Shelford, NISS start-up project manager, said Ngāpuhi tikanga was at the heart of the service.

''Where possible we want to connect young people with their cultural and tribal identity to reignite being Māori and Ngāpuhi is a positive thing.''

The scheme will be officially launched today at 11.30am at Kohewhata Marae, Kaikohe.