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Maori reoffending rate 'unacceptable'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/04/2017

The Department of Corrections is not shying away from a report which found the Crown is in breach of its Treaty of Waitangi obligations by not prioritising cutting the high rate of Maori reoffending.

The Waitangi Tribunal report released on Tuesday found the difference between Maori and non-Maori reoffending rates was substantial and contributes disproportionately to imprisonment of Maori.

Half of New Zealand's prisoners are Maori, despite being only 15 per cent of the population.

Corrections has accepted the report's accusations, acknowledging the rate of Maori reoffending is "unacceptable" and presents an extremely serious issue for New Zealand.

The tribunal looked at efforts by Corrections to reduce the overall rate of reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017 against a 2011 baseline, following a claim by retired senior probation officer Tom Hemopo.

He argued the Crown failed to make a long-term commitment to reducing Maori re-offending relative to non-Maori rates.

The tribunal found there was no specific plan, strategy, target or budget.

Corrections says it's not a simple task.

"Our job is to hold offenders to account and keep the public and staff safe, while making every effort to help turn around the lives of offenders by offering opportunities for rehabilitation," said Ray Smith, Chief Executive of Corrections.

Corrections Minister Louise Upston has welcomed the "constructive" report but defended the government's 25 per cent by 2025 re-offending reduction target which she says covers the whole justice system.

She said a recent deal between Corrections and the Kingitanga was one way of getting Maori-specific results within that target.

"It recognises that we need to find new ways to solve this particular challenge and get different results," she said.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox has scheduled a meeting with Ms Upston to discuss the report.

"I think there are a number of recommendations that we can take seriously, that we can bring in front of the government and we can ask them to consider," Ms Fox said.

Labour's associate Maori development spokesman Peeni Henare said there had been disorganisation in the portfolio.

"I do hope we get a brave minister, someone who's brave enough to make the changes needed that are recommended by the report," he said.

"What needs to happen now is a stronger advisory board as recommended, more resources given to that advisory board to strengthen their relationships with iwi and hapu."

Among recommendations in the report, Tu Mai te Rangi!, are that the Department of Corrections should:

* work with its Maori partners to design and implement a new Maori-specific strategic framework

* set and commit to a Maori-specific target to reduce Maori reoffending rates

* report regularly and publicly on the progress made towards this.

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