The first iwi community justice panel in Waitematā has been launched today with the police minister backing it as an effective way to reduce the rate of reoffending in young Māori.
Police Minister Stuart Nash launched the new panel, Te Pae Oranga, today at Hoani Waititi Marae in west Auckland.
The panel was created in a partnership between Hoani Waititi trustees and police.
"The trustees of Hoani Waititi Marae in Glen Eden have a long history of leading innovative restorative justice programmes," Nash said.
"Hoani Waititi was one of the first marae to deliver Family Group Conferences and the late Judge Mick Brown held the first Youth Court sittings there."
That approach had been maintained by current leaders including Sir Pita Sharples and Dame June Mariu, Nash said.
"It is the first iwi panel in the Waitematā Police District and means all three Auckland policing districts now have access to the restorative justice initiative."
The panel had potential to reduce reoffending and victimisation in Waitematā and keep young people off the pathway of crime that led to prison, he said.
"At around $100,000 per year per inmate, we can't keep building American-style mega prisons every few years as the main feature of our justice policy."
The panels were not a soft option, he said.
"Police must agree to refer an offender for a hearing. The offences are at the lower end of the scale, often involving careless driving or shoplifting, wilful damage or public disorder.
"The offender must admit guilt and be held to account for what they have done."
Te Pae Oranga was open to people of all cultural backgrounds.
Participants were encouraged to deal with the issues behind the offending and to create a plan that would stop it happening again, Nash said.
"The offender has to make good for the harm they have caused. That might involve an apology to the victim, financial reparation, or some form of community service."
Nash said early research showed the reoffending rate from people who had been through a panel hearing was 12 per cent lower than other justice processes.
"They are particularly effective in reducing offending by young Māori between 17 and 24," he said.
"We know they aren't the whole answer, and that they won't work for everybody.
"But we are bringing a fresh set of eyes to the challenges of our justice system."
Later today, Nash was expected to open a new Police base in Beachlands.
In the summer months police had recorded an increase in seasonal crime such as property damage, theft and antisocial crimes linked to alcohol, he said.
"Beachlands has a strong volunteer network of neighbourhood watch and community patrols," he said.
"Local businesses are also investing in crime fighting tools like number plate recognition cameras.
"The new police base will offer greater assurance to locals who want to see more resources for crime prevention and community safety."
The police base had a public counter staffed from 9am to 4pm, five days a week.