By Gabrielle Stuart
In the past year, Hirone Waretini and his team have had to come to terms with something difficult - failure.
Five years ago, police launched a national strategy, Turning of the Tide. The goal was to turn around the high numbers of Māori who were involved in crime and road crashes, and the high numbers of Māori becoming their victims.
But it hasn't worked.
As Canterbury Police Māori, Pacific and Ethnic Services district manager, Inspector Waretini has those numbers always on his mind.
At last count, 8 per cent of Christchurch residents were Māori - yet Māori made up about 20 per cent of the people apprehended by police, he said.
More than half of New Zealand's prison population is Māori - 51 per cent.
A six-year national strategy Turning The Tide was launched in 2012, timed to finish in 2018.
It aimed to cut the number of Māori first-time offenders by 10 per cent, cut repeat offenders and repeat victims of crime by 20 per cent, reduce Māori apprehensions, and reduce the number of Maori killed or seriously injured in road crashes by 20 per cent.
But a review of progress on the strategy last year found there had been no change in the first time offender rates, an increase in repeat offenders, and trust and confidence in police within the Māori community had dipped. There were small improvements - a reduction in apprehensions of Māori youth, and the number of deaths in crashes dropped by 3 per cent - but overall it fell well short of the goals.
"We need to look at different ways of doing things, because, if I'm being honest, everything we've tried to do to change that hasn't worked," Waretini said.
"Some nights I'll sit with my kids, when we're warm and everyone's home safe, knowing there are a lot of kids out there that aren't. That women out there are being victimised by their partners, that men are in the grip of meth or alcohol, and can't find a way out."
To truly turn the tide, police had to be willing to do things differently, he said.
When he began working as police officer 21 years ago, he said seeing a criminal locked up had felt like a victory.
"We were the good guys, they were the bad guys, and it was our job to protect the good
people from the bad people," he said.
But over the years, he had seen that approach did not always work to prevent crime long-term, he said.
"The research tell us that when people appear in court, whether they have a community-based sentence or prison, that starts a cycle that is really hard to get out of."
A long-term solution began with children, he said.
Many Christchurch children were starting life disadvantaged, he said, and if that could be changed, he believed it would go a long way.
"How can a child born today, by the age of 25, be free of family harm and of sexual abuse, live in a healthy, secure environment, have good mental health, have at least NCEA Level 2 and a driver licence."
That took a long time and the help from the community to turn around, he said.
And that was where the team had seen victories.
Many programmes they have worked with iwi and community partners to develop, have received Government funding in the past year - allowing them to do more targeted work with people like high-risk youth, children of prisoners, and young people who could not get a driver licence.
A string of convictions for something like driving without a licence could sometimes stem from a simple problem, Waretini said - he had come across young people who hadn't got their driver licence because they struggled to read.
One of the biggest victories, he said, had been building better relationships between police and the community.
He said there was now open communication, and police were regularly welcomed on to Canterbury marae.
"Good relationships take a long time, and they take commitment and listening. Being married will teach you that," he said.
He said his team could be accused of being "all hui, no do-ey", because so much of their work was talk.
But he said even a conversation over a cup of tea was important.
"A cuppa tea is like a job interview. They're sizing you up and deciding if you're someone they can trust."
Senior Constable Jeff Martin has seen it with a fresh perspective, as he joined the team just four months ago.
He had been impressed by the things he had seen - like a recent session at the marae-based Rangatahi Court, where young offenders were being sentenced.
The differences to the district court in the central city were subtle, but important, he said - the young offenders stood and gave a mihi, rather than standing silent behind a sheet of glass, and families were included in the process rather than kept at the back.
There was a sense of respect there, and accountability to the community, he said.
He has worked as a police officer for 27 years, much of it based in small communities like Huntly and Cheviot, and most recently on the beat at Cathedral Square.
Everything he learned taught him building trust and strong relationships was vital to making a change, he said.
Although the team had not yet seen the changes they were hoping for, they would not stop working until they did, he said.
"We need to recognise we can't do this on our own. With the local rūnanga we share many common values, but for too long our approach has been that we know what the problems are, we know what the solutions are, this is how we will do it. To make a change, we need to work in partnership, and really listen."