Speech at opening of Te Kooti Rangatahi
Tena koutou nga Iwi o Tauranga moana nei (Greetings/salutations to you all the tribes of this area - Tauranga )
Ngai te Rangi Ngai te Rangi (one of the Iwi)
Ngati Ranginui Ngati Ranginui (one of the Iwi)
Ngati Pukenga Ngati Pukenga (one of the Iwi).
Taku mihi tenei ki a koutou katoa (This is my acknowledgment to you all.)
Thank you for inviting me to attend the launch of Te Kooti Rangatahi o Tauranga Moana at Hairini Marae.
While crime and the numbers of people appearing in our criminal courts are at their lowest levels since 1978, the reduction has not been as great for Māori. So while the number of Māori in the courts has reduced, the proportion has grown.
This is a complex issue and there is no one simple solution – including in the area of youth crime. But this is a priority for the Government.
For example, in October 2013, we launched the Youth Crime Action Plan, also known as “YCAP”. It is a 10-year plan to reduce crime by children and young people and help those who offend to turn their lives around.
YCAP recognises the need to do better to reduce the over-representation of Māori in the criminal justice system. A key feature of YCAP is encouraging government agencies to work together more closely and partner with Māori, communities, parents, schools and others to tackle youth crime and the factors that lead to offending.
In that spirit, the Justice sector – the Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections – has a number of initiatives in place.
One of those initiatives, led by the judiciary, has been Rangatahi Courts. Their focus is squarely on addressing offending by young Māori.
For many young people appearing in court can be a foreign place and because of that fundamental disconnect, it is all too easy for some to dismiss the process.
The Rangatahi Court does things differently by placing young offenders in an environment they can connect with.
It is environment that helps them reconnect with their culture. It is a process that sees them dealt with, rather than dealt to.
In ensuring we deliver justice services that are relevant and appropriate to the people who come before our courts, it’s important that we look at more innovative ways to deliver those services.
We don’t need to be constrained by conventions from the past that don’t always fit well with Aotearoa New Zealand today. It requires fresh thinking.
The Court, however, does attempt to create a different environment for young offenders.
It does this by taking the case away from the hostile environment that may be experienced in the traditional court setting, and creates one where, with the support of whānau, kuia and kaumātua, a young person can take ownership of their offending.
This is no “soft option.” While the setting is different, the same legal rules apply.
Requiring young people to stand up on their marae, in front of their family and their elders, and account for what they have done and how they are putting it right is a powerful, daunting and hopefully life-changing experience.
That view is borne out by the evaluation of the Rangatahi Court conducted in 2012 that showed that young people find the Court a much more positive experience.
They felt less threatened and more engaged. We were told that their behaviour improves by being on the marae, under the watchful eye of their kaumātua and in the shadow of their ancestors, their tipuna.
Linking it back to their tipuna, symbolised by the beautiful carvings that grace the wharenui and the other buildings on this marae, helps create a connection to their culture, and gives them a better chance of turning their lives around and set themselves on a life free of crime.
Having local kuia and kaumāuta in the Rangatahi court process is important. Their guidance is often sought on all manner of topics in daily life as well as in tikanga Māori.
Elders perform certain roles and duties within the hapu and iwi community and often as have information on other people and programmes that may have expertise in other fields to assist a troubled teenager.
With this in mind, I’m sure this new Rangatahi Court will be of great benefit to the wider Tauranga Moana community.
I would like to thank Hairini Marae for opening their home and inviting the Rangatahi Court to take place here.
I would also like to thank Judge Heemi Taumaunu, who has led the development of the Rangatahi Court in Christchurch, Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft for his support of the initiative, and the Ministry of Social Development who have put in place programmes to support the court.
Furthermore I would like extend my thanks to those involved in organising this special day, Judges Wills, Bidios and Clarke, Court representatives, members of Tauranga Moana and our sector partners.
In conclusion, the success of this court lies in its fresh approach, and the collaboration between the courts, the community and many government agencies. That collaborative spirit is well represented by the well known Māori proverb: “Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi” or in English “with your food basket and my food basket, the people will thrive.”
And with those positive words I will conclude. Thank you again for the invitation. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora koutou katoa.
*Please check against delivery as speech delivered may have varied.