Removing someone like Ngāpari Nui from his voluntary role at Whanganui Prison will do nothing to bring down the "shameful" rate of Maori imprisonment, Nga Wairiki/Ngati Apa chairman Pahia Turia says.

The "humble" Patea man "with a huge heart" has been stood down from his role helping prisoners because Sensible Sentencing Trust gangs spokesman Scott Guthrie told Corrections Minister Judith Collins that Mr Nui was a patched Black Power member. The minister decided gang members should not be in the role.

Rates of imprisonment are shameful for Maori - about 50 per cent of New Zealand men in prison, and 60 per cent of New Zealand women, Mr Turia said. People like Mr Nui, who live an "exemplary" life, can help by offering prisoners new perspectives.

"I hold grave concerns that high rates of Māori imprisonment and recidivism will simply continue under the kind of leadership and approach that is being demonstrated by this minister," Mr Turia said.


Mr Nui is a descendant of Ngā Wairiki-Ngāti Apa, and the tribe also has a close association with Whanganui Prison. Its treaty claim has been settled and it and is "supposed to be enjoying a strong treaty based relationship with the Crown".

Mr Turia therefore expected consultation from the Crown on matters affecting a respected iwi member.

"Instead, rash decisions have been made, and a good person has been hung out to dry," he said.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins has started a review of people who are allowed to work within prisoners. None are to have gang connections in future.