A marae-based Māori youth court is being set up in Flaxmere, a first for Hawke's Bay that is being described as a potential watershed moment in the fight to keep troubled teens out of gangs.
The Rangatahi Court, Ngā Kōti Rangatahi, which will be based at Te Aranga Marae, will sit for the first time on April 4.
Te Aranga Marae chairman and Flaxmere councillor Henare O'Keefe has hailed it as a "significant moment" in a week where headlines have been dominated by gang violence in the region.
Police continue to investigate a gang brawl that ended in gunfire on Taradale's main street on Sunday.
One man, since charged with possession of an offensive weapon and unlawful assembly, was injured in the fray and a child's car seat was struck by one of the pellets fired.
Police say they continue to investigate the Gloucester St brawl and anticipate more arrests.
They are also meeting with Black Power and Mongrel Mob gang leaders on an almost "daily" basis to try to ease simmering tensions around the region.
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O'Keefe said the Rangatahi Court would not be a "silver bullet".
"And I must acknowledge that we will not save everyone. The solution will have to involve the family in its entirety. Rangatahi Courts are only part of the jigsaw."
But he said the establishment of one in Hawke's Bay could be what the region needs.
"After all, what have we got to lose," O'Keefe said.
There are 17 other Rangatahi Courts operating in New Zealand.
The courts are for young people up to 17 years of age who have admitted the charges they are facing, and instead of punishment, a focus will be on connecting youth with their whakapapa.
O'Keefe described it as an "alternative to the status quo" that focused on Māori cultural processes.
Kaumātua and kuia (respected elders) will sit alongside a judge, police, social workers, court staff, whānau, a Youth Advocate (the young person's lawyer), a Lay Advocate and the victim if they choose to attend.
After a Family Group Conference, a family/whānau-led process to plan for how to address concerns about tamariki or rangatahi about their offending, a plan is decided for how the youth can take responsibility and not offend again.
"When you look at the young offenders, Māori are over-represented in the justice system," O'Keefe said.
"A full-immersion Māori approach, not only to justice, but to other components of our community, where Māori are helping Māori - I think our chances of succeeding would be far greater."
Youth will be encouraged to discover more about their cultural identity in a safe space, including an expectation that they will learn their pepeha (traditional greeting of tribal identity), he said.
At each hearing of the Rangatahi court, the young person will practise delivering their pepeha.
"Māori will be allowed to be Māori in the fraternity of the judiciary," O'Keefe said.
"It will be part of their healing process. The court will be more empathetic, sympathetic to the cultural impacts, and cultural input will be vitally important."
Each hearing will begin with the young person receiving a mihi (talk) from the kaumātua, showing respect to that young person and acknowledging their whanau, hapū and iwi links.
Eastern District Commander Superintendent Tania Kura said police were meeting with senior gang leaders in Hawke's Bay "pretty much daily" to find some sort of resolution to gang-related violence, with the Taradale gang-shooting on Sunday at the forefront of the mind.
"We have ongoing communication with the leaders. We have a few intelligence staff going out to meet them regularly."
Kura said she was hearing the term "co-operation" between rival gangs Mongrel Mob and Black Power being bandied about, but she is taking it with a hefty grain of salt.
"Everyone says they will co-operate but I need to see action."