Change is in the wind for the way justice is done in Whanganui - but it may come slowly.
There is early talk about a new courthouse, the Chief District Court Judge has announced a "transformative model" and the leader of Whanganui's land settlement negotiations wants to turn justice on its head.
The Whanganui Courthouse on Pākaitore/Moutoa Gardens houses both district and high court sittings. It has 33 staff, not counting judges.
The courthouse and the 1803 square metres of land it sits on were offered to Whanganui Iwi by then Prime Minister Helen Clark in 2007, as part of a sale and lease back agreement, Justice Ministry deputy secretary corporate and digital services Tina Wakefield said.
The Pākaitore Trust was set up to manage the asset, Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui Trust chairman Gerrard Albert said in a statement, and the iwi ratified transfer of the Pākaitore Trust to Ngā Tāngata Tiaki.
The transfer happened when the Whanganui River Settlement legislation was passed and the settlement became final in 2017.
Ngā Tāngata Tiaki became responsible for maintaining the building. Due to commercial sensitivities, Albert would not say how much it was worth, how much Ngā Tāngata Tiaki received for leasing it to the Ministry of Justice or how much maintenance the trust had done.
The Ministry of Justice had made additions to the building since it was offered back, Wakefield said. A new secure custodial entrance was added in 2008.
In 2011 it got a new staff entrance and in 2018 its court cells were upgraded.
Now the ministry is considering the option of a new courthouse for Whanganui, built in line with Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu's vision for transforming district courts, Te Ao Marama.
Taumaunu announced Te Ao Marama in November last year. It is inspired by the concept "mai te pō ki te ao mārama" - "from the night to the enlightened world".
The aim will be justice for all parties, in partnership with iwi and the community. District courts will incorporate some of the practices of specialist courts for youth and for people with addiction, homelessness and mental health issues.
The courts would use plain language and kaupapa Māori approaches, address the causes of offending and ensure everyone felt heard and understood, Taumaunu said.
Hamilton District Court is to trial Te Ao Marama this year. After that it will be rolled out to others.
Talk about a new justice hub and court house was at a very early stage, Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust chairman Ken Mair said. He was more focused on major changes to the justice system than on what building might be needed.
"What we have is a system that's been imposed upon us that's quite foreign to this land and it's all very much around the individual," Mair said.
"A person stands in the dock away from their whānau."
The system tended to treat everyone as an individual and did not want to understand that justice could be based on collective responsibility, he said.
"We want a system that's much more value-based and much less punitive. We are looking for truth rather than a system that continually locks people up."
A good example could be that when police say "you are entitled to a lawyer", they could add "and a whānau representative", he said.
"We want a much more localised iwi/hapū/community approach in regard to the police and the court and all of that," Mair said.
"We have got to turn it on its head and drive it towards a system that's been around here for a very long time, and make sure it's strongly embedded in the value base."