Destiny Church demands access to prisons, Ministers respond

Brian Tamaki and his Destiny Church had a rally at Parliament demanding access to prisons with two programmes they have developed, but Tamaki has been told to go through the normal channels and make a formal application, and Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis has made pointed response.

RNZ: Destiny Church rallies at Parliament for access to prisons

An estimated 2000 Destiny Church supporters rallied at Parliament this afternoon demanding access to prisons for their rehabilitation programmes, and millions of dollars in funding.

The leader of the church, Brian Tamaki, says his Man Up and Legacy programmes have helped hundreds of people turn their lives around, many of whom have spent years in the criminal justice system.

Man Up’s website describes the 15-week programme as a link to a ‘brotherhood’, which helps men identify and understand issues in their lives, and work through them for a more stable future.

The Corrections Department said it had never received a formal application from Destiny Church to deliver Man Up or Legacy in prisons.

The Justice Minister Andrew Little said the church had also never applied for funding.

“I’m not trying to point the finger of blame here, let’s just understand what it is that the issues are for [Mr Tamaki] and his Man Up programme and let’s see if we can pull something together which helps the government achieve its objectives which is reducing family violence and reducing the number of folks going to prison.”

The Employment Minister Willie Jackson said if the Destiny Church went through the proper channels then they could be able to get into prisons and get the funding they needed.

“I think that’s the problem here is that they actually haven’t gone through a formal process in terms of applications, so let’s see what they come up with.”

Brian Tamaki however appeared unwilling to play ball.

“Go through the channels? Well how come the Prime Minister can assign $30 million without even consulting to the Papua New Guinean Government and they misused it, and they have billions of dollars for pine trees and I’m talking about just a little bit of money for people.”

“I’ve been waiting for 20 years and I’m doing the business without taxpayers’ money.”

I guess tithing is different to taxing.

Kelvin Davis responded:

Tamaki says that not allowing his programmes to be used in prisons is a breach of human rights and a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi. He insists he has applied to have them be used.

 

Should the government take care of people, or enable people to take care of themselves?

Or both to varying degrees?

Is there a natural progression of community and care (for some) from whanaua to hapu to iwi – to Government?

Everyone wants health care provided, and education, a protective police force and a bunch of other things. And many people like financial assistance and housing assistance, if not to be fully provided for.

Richard Harman raised this in his coverage of Labour’s conference in the weekend:

The most eloquent outline to the conference of what that might be came not from her  but from her deputy party leader, Kelvin Davis.

He said that the Labour party was in government to take care of people.

“As a government, we are not only changing policy and legislation,” he said.

“We are changing the way we see ourselves as a country.”

The same idea; that this was a government that was changing things ran through a speech from Finance Minister, Grant Robertson.

From Kelvin Davis’ Speech to the 2018 Labour Party Conference:

We are tackling many hard issues as a government. Housing, child poverty, prison numbers, climate change, improving the wellbeing of our country. None of the answers are easy. But we know taking on these challenges is the right thing to do.

Because, unlike the other lot, when we talk about eradicating child poverty, helping those whanau that are struggling the most, we are not just talking about percentages, headlines and numbers on a spreadsheet.

Poverty has a face. It has names.

We are talking about our neighbours, our friends, our whanau.

And that is what sets a Labour Government apart from the rest.

In the end we are in Government to take care of people

From Grant Robertson’s Speech to the 2018 Labour Party Conference:

Next month the Treasury will release its first Living Standards Dashboard.  This will show a range of indicators of our current wellbeing as a nation.  It includes the tangible, like incomes and home ownership, but also the intangible like life satisfaction and cultural wellbeing.  It is a work in progress.  We need to make sure it is truly reflective of Aotearoa New Zealand, and all that makes us unique. It will evolve over the coming years. But it is a great start to a new way of thinking about what counts as success.

How much should the Government provide for the wellbeing of New Zealanders?

Moreover, people voted for Labour because they knew that we cared about them, we were part of the community and they trusted us to look out for their families.

Is the Labour Party a part of a caring community? Should the Government be seen as a caring benefactor? To some extent that’s expected. The question is, how much?

Some people want the Government to intervene and to provide for them, they want the Government to help them and care for them.

Others want the Government to keep out of their lives as much as possible, to not interfere, to be a provider of health, education and services in the background only.

We can’t avoid the Government having a major effect on all of our lives, through tax gathering, provision of infrastructure and services. Those of us who survive to 65 get universal superannuation for the rest of our lives.

No one argues against having prisons for those who offend against the wellbeing of others.

Some people need more care than others, Some are genuinely disadvantaged through illness and disability. Their families and caregivers deserve some assistance.

How much should the Government care for the people? Of course we hope that politicians care, but how much care should they actually provide? We don’t pay enough tax to enable the Government to provide the care that people want.

To an extent it is a question of how much we want the Government to be a visible and engaged provider or care, or whether they making things available with a more background role.

Many of us have moved to a more satellite self sufficient society, but some want more provided.

Perhaps there are different cultural expectations. Do Maori (generally) expect the Government to be a more community engaged caregiver? They may think that there’s a natural progression from whanau to hapu to iwi to Government.

That’s quite different to how I see things. That doesn’t mean one is right or wrong, just that there are widely varying needs and expectations.

Should Government be the umbrella caregiver?

Action announced for “a noticeable improvement in water quality”

The quality of rain water in New Zealand is pretty much pristine, but after it falls and flows past our towns and through our farms and industries it deteriorates, sometimes to an alarming degree.

The is probably near universal support for improving the quality of water in our creeks and rivers, lakes, inlets and lagoons, and on our beaches.

Actually water quality does not need to be improved so much as degradation needs to be drastically reduced.

Aims are a bit vague – “promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years” – but should be widely supported.

Minister of the Environment David Parker:


Taking action to improve water quality

The Government today is announcing its next steps to improve the state of our waterways, promising a noticeable improvement in water quality within five years.

“Clean water is our birthright. Local rivers and lakes should be clean enough for our children to swim in, and put their head under, without getting crook,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

“There will be a focus on at-risk catchments so as to halt the decline. We’re not going to leave the hard issues for future generations.”

David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor today released the Government’s blueprint to improve freshwater quality. It also sets out a new approach to the Māori/Crown relationship that will acknowledge Māori interests in fair access to water to develop their land.

“New Zealanders value our rivers and lakes. More than 80 per cent are committed to improving water quality for the benefit of future generations and they want central and local government, farmers and businesses to do more,” David Parker said at a function in Parliament to launch the new work programme.

“New rules will be in place by 2020 to stop the degradation of freshwater quality – a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and a new National Environmental Standard.

“The rules will include controls on the excesses of some intensive land use practices. Our remaining wetlands and estuaries will be better protected.

“We will drive good management practices on farms and in urban areas.”

“We are also amending the Resource Management Act to enable regional councils to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits,” David Parker said.

“We know Māori share the same interests as the rest of New Zealand in improving water quality and ensuring fair access to water resources.”

Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Kelvin Davis, said both Māori and the Crown are committed to Te Mana o te Wai.

“We are committed to a substantive discussion on how to address Maori interests, by taking practical steps to address constraints on Māori land development.”

David Parker said the Government’s approach to solving these issues is engaging leading New Zealanders who care about our freshwater – environmental NGOs, Māori, farming leaders, scientists, Regional Council experts and others.

“Already, we are working with the primary sector and regional councils in the most at-risk catchments. I recently visited the Aparima River in Southland where the farming community is leading a project to get all 600 land managers in the catchment following better farming practices.”

Alongside work to tackle climate change, reduce waste, and protect our natural biodiversity, today’s release of the freshwater work programme shows this Government is determined to protect our environment for future New Zealanders.

Damien O’Connor said New Zealanders all agree our natural resources must be used wisely.

“Primary sectors are crucial to an environmentally-sustainable, high-value economy that supports the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. This is why we must grow a sustainable and productive primary sector within environmental limits.

“Many in the sector are already working hard to protect the natural resources they depend on, and recognise the importance of enhancing our reputation as a trusted producer of the finest food and fibre products. The workstreams set out today recognise the importance of accelerating this good work.”

The documents Essential Freshwater Agenda and Shared interests in Freshwater can be read on the Ministry for the Environment website at: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/fresh-water/essential-freshwater-agenda

Targeted action and investment in at-risk catchments, including accelerating the implementation of Good Farming Practice Principles and identifying options for tree planting through the One Billion Trees programme.

A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management by 2020, to ensure all aspects of ecosystem health are managed, and address risks, for example by providing greater direction on how to set limits on resource use, and better protection of wetlands and estuaries.

A new National Environmental Standard for Freshwater Management by 2020, to regulate activities that put water quality at risk, such as intensive winter grazing, hill country cropping and feedlots.

Amendments to the Resource Management Act within the next 12 months to review consents in order to more quickly implement water quality and quantity limits; and to strengthen enforcement tools for improving environmental compliance.

Decisions on how to manage allocation of nutrient discharges, informed by discussion and engagement with interested parties.

Involvement of interested parties in testing and advising on policy options through a network of advisory groups; Kahui Wai Māori, the Science and Technical Advisory Group, and the Freshwater Leaders Group.


See also: Freshwater plan to explore Māori and Crown shared interests

The Government plan announced today to improve freshwater quality acknowledges that water quality cannot be addressed without a concurrent and substantive discussion with Māori, Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Minister Kelvin Davis said

Māori Crown agency to be established

An announcement yesterday from Kelvin Davis, Minister of Crown/Māori Relations:


Cabinet has approved the final scope of the Māori Crown portfolio and agreed to establish an agency to oversee Government’s work with Māori in a post-settlement era, announced Crown/ Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis today.

“The agency, to be called the Office for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti, will help facilitate the next step in the Treaty relationship – moving beyond the settlement of Treaty grievances into what it means to work together in partnerships,” Kelvin Davis said.

“The name reflects feedback from the hui that Māori should appear first in the relationship. Te Arawhiti, refers to the transition phase we are in, that is ‘the bridge’ between Māori and the Crown.

“Several other Government units and offices will be consolidated into the agency, including the Crown/Māori Relations Unit, the Office of Treaty Settlements, the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Team and the Settlement Commitments Unit. The consolidation will bring a sharper focus and efficiency to the Government’s work with Māori.”

In addition to finishing Treaty Settlements and Marine and Coastal Area applications, the new agency, based on the new scope of the Māori Crown portfolio, will provide strategic leadership across the public sector to:

  • ensure the Crown meets its Treaty obligations;
  • develop a new engagement model and guidelines for the Government and public sector;
  • co-design partnerships, principles and frameworks to ensure that agencies generate the best solutions to issues affecting Māori;
  • ensure public sector capability is strengthened across the board;
  • provide a cross Government view on the health of the Māori Crown partnerships;
  • provide strategic leadership on contemporary Treaty issues;
  • other matters including the constitutional and institutional arrangements supporting partnerships between the Crown and Māori: and
  • continue to take the lead in organising significant Māori and Crown events, ie Waitangi Day.

“While there are still some Treaty grievances to settle, I heard from many Māori how they want to engage with the Crown on a range of issues that look to the future.

“Together, Māori and the Crown want this portfolio to be about aspiration, and looking forward, in the post-settlement era,” Kelvin Davis said

Davis claims that prisoner numbers have reduced by 600

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has claimed that prisoner numbers have reduced by 600 in an interview yesterday on Newshub Nation. If this is true that would be a remarkable turnaround on recent forecasts.

Recently published projections, which show a prison population of 10,308 for 2017.

RNZ (2 July 2018): Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis changes inmate forecast comments

Mr Davis said since January, growth in the prison population was tracking below the forecast for the first time “in a very long time”. There were now 10,500 people in prison, a fall of 300 since March.

Mr Davis has previously said the government aimed to reduce the prison population by 30 percent over 15 years, to around 7000.

That suggests that prisoner numbers peaked at 10,800 in March, and had decreased by 300 by July.

On Wednesday (22 August) RadioLive reports in ‘This is personal for me’: Kelvin Davis on Maori prison stats

There are 10,235 prisoners in our jails, down from 10,800 in March.

That’s 565 down on the Match peak.

Davis on the Nation yesterday:

The facts are that the prison forecast had us at about 11,500 by the end of the year. We’re now at 10,200. Since March, the prison population has reduced from 10,800. So, there’s work that we’re doing just to streamline processes within the system that are actually having a positive effect on the prison population.

Well, we’ve reduced the prison population by 600 in six months…

Well, what I’m saying is that Corrections is doing a fantastic job. It has done a fantastic job already. We’ve only been in government less than a year, and we’ve managed to defy the projections, and we’re a thousand below where they— where we’re told that they would be.

Corrections have put on their thinking caps. We’ve already got the High Impact Innovation Programme that is having a significant benefit. It’s reducing the prison numbers…

We’re actually defying the odds. We’re defying the forecast. We’re defying the projections, and the prison population is actually reducing, and we’re doing it safely.

If accurate, this is a remarkable turnaround.

Andrew Little on Q&A last weekend (19 August 2018):

We’ve had this massive increase of the number of people in our prisons, we’ve got more people serving longer prison sentences, our average prison sentence has increased by something like twenty percent over the last few years.

Sixty percent of those in prison will reoffend within two years of release…

Nearly 40% of those in prison have a mental health problem like depression or anxiety.
Nearly 50% have an addiction problem.

Little’s focus is on helping and treating people while in prison so they are less likely to offend after they are released. That has been asked for for years.

We’ve been putting more and more people into prison and for longer…

It’s not right that we’ve had this thirty percent increase in our prison population in just the last five years, that’s not right, that tells you there’s something wrong. It’s not right that we’ve doubled those remanded in custody just in the last five years.

He means that’s not good, not that it isn’t correct.

But it seems odd that in an interview focussing on dire imprisonment statistics and the need for better treatment of problems and better rehabilitation, there was no mention of prisoner numbers being reduced.

So what about Davis’ claim? From the Department of Corrections prisoner population as at 31 March 2018 (the latest published information):

  • Remand prisoners 3,316
  • Sentenced prisoners 7,329
  • TOTAL PRISONERS 10,645

That’s less than the 10,800 that Davis claimed, and he has given variations on the latest numbers so the exact numbers are unclear.

However if they have reduced over the last five months that is good progress. It would be good to have this clarified.

How is this being achieved? Davis referred to the oddly named High Impact Innovation Programme. From Corrections ‘Our Priorities’:

  • The High Impact Innovation Programme will enhance opportunities for offenders to access electronic bail and home detention options.

Home Detention is a sentence so that is decided by courts (judges). Have they been encouraged to choose Home Detention more? Electronic Bail also sounds like a court decision.

The above numbers show that there are a huge number remand prisoners (as at 31 March), and according to Little that has doubled in the last five years, so is an obvious target in trying to reduce prisoner numbers. Little also said that most imprisoned on remand don’t get prison sentences.

A risk is that, probably inevitably, a person on bail will commit a high profile crime and that will have (some of) the public and some lobby groups and some politicians baying for more imprisonment.

So there are tricky challenges for Little.

As for the reduced prisoner numbers claimed by Davis, which range from 600 (a number he quoted) to 410 (another number he quoted plus an official Corrections number.

However any reduction is good, especially given the forecast increases – until someone on bail or on early release probation does something horrific. It is a difficult balancing act – the need to balance risks.

Nation: Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis on reducing prisoner numbers

I think it’s fair to say that Kelvin Davis has been quite disappointing in his public appearances as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Corrections.

He has taken part in this week’s Justice Summit, which has been trying to kick off discussions on how to reduce the currently surging prisoner numbers.

As Davis is also Minister for Crown/Māori Relations, and about half of male prisoners and a greater proportion of female prisoners are Maori, he has some work to do to try to address things.

Kelvin Davis (NZH): Letting prisoners vote brings them closer to society and takes them further from crime

Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis has spoken in favour of prisoners having the right to vote, saying it is an important part of reducing reoffending.

He said those who had been in prison were more likely to offend – and in doing so, create more victims of crime – if they were excluded from society.

I think there’s likely to be much more important factors than being able to vote.

Davis was a constant throughout the summit with his department, Corrections, coming in for greater scrutiny and criticism than others in the justice system.

He spent the two days speaking to attendees from the stage, listening to criticism from the floor and later seeking out critics to better understand their frustration.

For Davis, it is personal. Maori are far more likely than non-Maori to be victims of crime – and more likely to be revictimised.

Maori make up 15 per cent of the population but 51 per cent of the prison population – and half of those inmates are Ngapuhi, as is Davis.

“These are family, these are friends, these are whanaunga (relatives) of mine – I want my tribe to succeed in every way possible, culturally, socially, economically. We’re not going to do that by locking people up.”

The discussion about reforming the criminal justice system was easier with Maori, he said, because the disproportionate burden felt by Maori meant “they get it straight away”.
Justice statistics show Maori have 660 people per 100,000 in prison against New Zealand European numbers of 93 per 100,000.

Davis said: “It’s harder with other parts of the general population.”

Odd comments. It seems that Maori don’t get what they need to take ownwership of and responsibility for in order to reduce their high crime, imprisonment and recidivism rates.

Newshub Nation this morning: As the Government’s Criminal Justice Summit draws to a close, Lisa Owen asks Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis how he’ll achieve the bold target of reducing inmate numbers by 30 per cent in 15 years

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says the govt has reduced the prison population by 600 in six months – but he wants more ideas about how to reduce it further. It’s a good start he says.

Lisa Owen puts to Davis that the increase in police numbers will result in more prisoners – there’s an OIA saying that – Davis is emphasising the police taking a preventative approach.

Kelvin Davis on over-representation of Māori in the (prison) system

An often quoted disparity – Māori make up about 15% of the New Zealand population, but make up 52% of the prison population. This is a sign of a number of problems, including poverty and deprivation, unemployment, lack of education, a culture of violence, Māori gangs, and probably policing and justice systems stacked again either or both poorer people and Māori.

Kelvin Davis has been disappointing as deputy Prime Minister, but as Minister of Corrections and Minister for Crown/Māori Relations he may still be able make a significant contribution to the Government (and to Māori and to New Zealand society) if he can work out how to find some solutions and improve on some of this.

 

His speech to the Justice Summit:


Criminal Justice Summit: Plenary discussion on over-representation of Māori in the system

“I had never been hit or abused, until the day the men came to take me away.  I still don’t even know why.”

That’s how Sam began to tell me his story at a marae in Whangarei.

Sam is now 60. The gang patches on his face still vivid.

His life has been spent in and out of prison. But now, he has had enough.

Enough of the violence. Enough of the P. Enough of ‘The Life.’

Sam was just 10 years-old when strangers arrived at his house in Mangere and took him away. His only crime was that he was born into a whānau of 16 children.

They took him away from his home, away from his family, and put him on a train to a boys’ home in Levin.

He had never known abuse or violence in his life until he walked through their doors.

Four years later – and Sam was put on another train and sent back to Auckland.

He told me that when he stepped off the train in Auckland he had changed so much as a person that it no longer felt like home. He felt like he no longer belonged there.

Within two weeks he had joined a gang – a new home, a new family he would remain with for the next 48 years.

When Sam told me his story – in fact when Māori across the country doing time tell me their stories – I can’t help but ask the question:

Why didn’t we do something? As a government, as Māori: Why didn’t we help?

Why are Māori up and down the country more likely to visit the pad than the marae?

And why are whole whānau turning to crime to feed their kids rather than turning to the government for support?

We took that 10 year-old boy – scared and confused – we took him, we threw him into the system and it spat out a broken young man with nowhere to turn but a life in the gang.

Why did we let that happen to Sam? And why do we still refuse to be bold and brave and do something to help people like Sam today?

We take pride in New Zealand as a country that leads the world in many ways.

Whether it’s our sporting achievements, our science and tech innovation, or our film industry. And we should be proud of these things.

But there is an ugly reality in this country. We are a world leader when it comes to putting people in prison.

We can’t seem to get enough of it.

We have the second highest incarceration rate in the world – and a level of imprisonment that is simply devastating our Māori whānau and communities.

You have all seen the statistics.

Roughly 16 per cent of our country’s population are Māori, yet we make up 51 per cent of all people in prison.

It is worse for our women and our young people.

Wāhine Māori make up around 60 per cent of the female prison population and the figure is similar for the number of young Māori offenders doing time on the inside.

It’s not just imprisonment rates.

Our people are over-represented at every stage of the criminal justice system:

In Oranga Tamariki care; in Youth Justice; criminal convictions; in dealings with the Police, and as victims of crime.

It’s not a new problem.

Successive governments have failed to overcome this challenge, let alone accept it as one that we can and must overcome.

This is personal for me.

I look around this room and I see Māori – professionals, public servants, whānau, leaders and iwi representatives – and I know you feel this too.

These are our people I’m talking about. Over half of all prisoners are Māori and about half of these are from my iwi of Ngāpuhi.

In fact, my tribe of Ngāpuhi are probably the most incarcerated tribe in the world per head of population.

I’ve had whānau in prison. I grew up in a street where a number of people living there went to prison. These guys were my mates: I used to build huts with them; swim in the floods with them; we would play in the paddocks together.

That’s not to excuse the offences these people have committed – but something has to be done to reduce the scale of this problem and the sheer waste of human potential.

So, this is very much a personal issue.

And as the Minister of Corrections: I want answers.

There is only so much you can learn from reports and international evidence, patterns, rates and projections.

I wanted to talk to prisoners.

So I have gone up and down the country, brought together groups of Māori inmates and asked them the simple question:

What do we need to do to help you so that when you leave prison you never come back?

And when I talk about ‘We’ – I mean the Government and Māori together.

I don’t know what I expected – but what I didn’t expect was the openness of each man and woman who spoke.

A woman at Wiri told me she had spent her life in and out of prison.

She had violent outbursts and the scars on her wrists told the story of those days when it all got too much.

Then she talked about an anger management course she had just finished.

She said it had changed her life: She can now communicate with her family, regulate her emotions and control her outbursts.

She then asked me: ‘Why couldn’t I have done this course when I was 15? Gee, my life would have been so different’.

I heard similar stories from the men I sat down with in the Special Treatment Unit at Rimutaka.

One of these men told me the rehabilitation programme they were on had taught him he actually had options when he became angry– options other than expressing that anger and frustration as violence.

Another said he had never even thought about or considered his inner feelings and emotions until he was on this programme – because the way he was raised, talking about feelings or showing vulnerability was not acceptable. It was unthinkable.

And all of them told me the same thing: They don’t want this life for their kids.

Then there’s the young Māori man who told me that when he was released from prison all he wanted to do was go home and see his Mum and Dad – but because he had a Non Association Order and his whole family were in a gang – he couldn’t go home.

He said: ‘I get that they take my freedom away because of the crimes I committed. But they took my whānau too’.

Men in prison tell me how much they benefit from Tikanga Māori courses – that it changes their lives when they learn haka, waiata and karakia.

But when that man goes home changed and wanting to live a new life – before he sits down to eat with his whānau he starts to say karakia and his wife and kids look at him like he’s a stranger.

Just last week, an articulate and polite young Māori man – only 18 years-old – had a tattoo scribbled across his face that read: ‘Trust No One’.

I asked him why he got that tattoo and he replied: ‘No one has done nothing for me, and everyone has let me down. My whānau, my friends and the system’.

Those disappointments and failures are now etched on his face as a constant reminder.

And why would he believe any different?

The system is broken.

It’s not working. And our whānau are hurting the most.

If we genuinely want to see fewer Māori caught in the system as both perpetrators and victims of crime, then we need to fundamentally change our approach to criminal justice.

This summit marks the start of this change.

It’s time as a government, it’s time as Māori that we work together to help our people.

In our communities, in our prisons and when they come out.

There had to be dozens of points in Sam’s life when someone could have stepped in.

And in Sam’s case, the one time we did step in, our intervention sent him down the path that ultimately turned him into a gang member – and not just him, but his whānau, and their whānau too.

In the end, we punished a child whose only crime was being born into a family of 16 children, then we sentenced him to a life of crime.

And we need to own that.

It’s our fault he spent nearly half a century in a gang.

If you think Sam is the exception to the rule – you are wrong.

There are 5000 Sams in our prisons. And they include his children, and his grandchildren.

We need to do something together to create a different future for Māori and for their whanau.

We need to break the cycle, connect them to their people, help them, and have hope for them.

And if we accept that there is a need for change – then we must all be part of that.

We – all of us – need to change the system. But we also need to change.

As a government we need to make sure the system helps and does not hurt Māori further.

We need to make sure those who have found their way into the system leave as better people – not broken people.

And when I visit our prisons full of our Māori men and women, I know that – if we are 51 per cent of the problem – then it must be up to us to lead the solution.

But we can only do it with the support of every person in this room.

As Māori we need to take care of our own, rather than closing our doors. We need to face up to and free ourselves from the violence that many of our people, our whānau struggle with.

Here’s where we can learn something from Sam:

When he heard the boys’ home in Levin had closed, he and his wife jumped in the car and drove back to the place where it all started.

He told me it was something he just had to do.

And it was when he was standing outside the gates that he finally broke down and offered his forgiveness.

He forgave the men who took him away; the boys’ home that broke his spirit; the government and the people who turned their backs on him.

He forgave us.

As a gang member you would expect Sam to be hard – to be strong. But one of the strongest things he’s ever done is to forgive us for the life we gave him, his kids, and his grandkids.

I’ll probably never know why Sam trusted me with his story. I was a stranger to him.

What I do know, is that I feel the weight of carrying his story, telling his story and sharing it with all of you.

And I know that we need to write a new story for our people.

So: What are we going to do? That is my question to all of you here today.

Together, how are we going to take up the challenge that others have been too timid, or too hardened or too short-sighted to accept?

What are we going to do to deserve Sam’s forgiveness?

Bridges, Mitchell negative as justice summit progresses

The justice system summit currently under way in Porirua is trying to find ways of doing justice better – something that could certainly do with improvement.

It’s disappointing to see how negative the national opposition is: Simon Bridges dismisses Government justice summit as a ‘talk fest’ – says it will lead to a ‘softening’ of laws

National Party leader Simon Bridges says the Criminal Justice Summit due to begin today is simply a ‘talk fest’ that will likely lead to a “softening” of bail laws.

Justice Minister Andrew Little yesterday told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme that New Zealand’s prison system is not successfully reintegrating people into society.

“Sixty per cent of those in prison will re-offend within two years of being released,” Mr Little said.

“We’ve had thirty years of the auction of more penalties, more crime, more people in prison but it’s not working, it’s not making us safe.

Mr Bridges, speaking this morning on TVNZ 1’s Breakfast programme, said it sounded like “Andrew Little knows what he wants to achieve out of it” and dismissed it as a “talk fest”.

“He doesn’t want to build more prison beds so he has to cut the prison population by a third,” Mr Bridges said.

“If I thought they were grappling with really hard issues to reduce actual offending, rather than just those prison numbers, and it was rehabilitation, reintegration, I’d go along with it.

“But it seems to me it’s pretty clear what’s going to come out – and that’s softening up the bail laws, the sentencing laws and the parole laws.

National’s justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell has also been critical of the summit.  It would be good to have seen cross party support for doing something about a prison system described by Bill English last year as a “moral and fiscal failure”.

But the summit can work without National.

Newsroom:  Much talk, some action at justice summit’s first day

Ministers laid out the cracks in the criminal justice system on the first day of the Government’s criminal justice summit. Claims that the event would be just another “talkfest” seemed to be initially borne out, but a better balance developed as the day wore on, as Sam Sachdeva reports.

About 700 people attended the first day of the Government’s criminal justice summit, the starting point for what could be years of reforms if ministers have their way.

Justice Minister Andrew Little…

…contrasted the image of New Zealand as a “small, peaceful country with no obvious enemies on our border” against the country’s darker side: record homelessness; grinding poverty; strained mental health and addiction services; and a skyrocketing prison population.

Little said there were fundamental questions about the justice system that needed answering: how to tackle high levels of domestic violence and reduce over-representation of Māori in prison; and how to ensure prisoners get the support they need to reduce their risk of reoffending.

“Many years of public debate and public discussion about criminal justice [have] focused on one thing: how are we going to lock them up and get them out of our way…

“We haven’t much talked in the last 30 years about what we do to change people, at least those who can be changed because they have understandable, identifiable problems and challenges in their lives which with a bit of effort we can turn around.”

Little made a point of singling out the National MPs in attendance despite their publicly expressed concerns about possible reforms, in a sign of the political battle the Government knows it has on its hands.

“If one of the things that we get from the conversation that we get to trigger in these two days is understanding, an agreed understanding about the gaps in national policy, about the way forward, some things we can do better, some things we can do differently, then that will help the debate,” he said.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis…

…asked for a show of hands from those who thought the justice system was perfect – predictably, none were raised – before asking the crowd to “ask hard questions” of the Government and provide ideas for change.

“None of us are precious about what’s going on, and we know things have to change, so we have to have the courage to challenge the status quo.”

Maori imprisonment rates are a significant part of the problem, so Davis needs to step up on this. It will require a lot of consultation with Maori communities.

Police Minister Stuart Nash…

…who on Monday announced the details of where the 1800 extra police funded by the Government would go, said that boost would not mean an equivalent rise in prison numbers as police took new approaches to crime.

“I do believe when I talk to people who are not politically aligned or socially aware, they are uncomfortable with the level of incarceration, they are uncomfortable with the fact that Corrections’ operating budget has increased by a billion dollars a year over the last 12 years, and they’re open and receptive to an alternative vision.”

Parliamentary undersecretary Jan Logie…

…a Green MP who is working under Little on domestic and sexual violence issues – work he described as “profoundly important” – then spoke about the flow-on impact of sexual and family violence on people who then went on to offend themselves, and the need to provide better support services.

Some frustration bubbled over as Logie finished her speech, with an interjector standing up and urging the organisers to “let Māori speak for us”.

“We don’t need to hear some organised speech, a pre-written speech to talk about us,” Anzac Wallace said.

National’s justice spokesman Mark Mitchell…

…seized on the “boilover” as a sign of the Government’s failure to properly plan the summit.

“They feel that there’s been too much talk, too many working groups, no action, and that’s basically what we’ve been saying…this has basically been like a big counselling session, and although these voices are important, this isn’t the right format.”

National had said it would support reforms which made a difference, Mitchell said, but did not support where the Government appeared to be heading.

“At the moment, and this was part of our discussion, fundamentally we’re going down two different tracks: we believe that at the heart of any good criminal justice system, public safety and victims should be at the heart of that.”

Talk and public engagement are important parts of political processes, so long as they lead to significant changes and to improvements.

The proof will be quite a bit further down the track – there are no quick or easy fixes.

Ngāpuhi ‘is probably the most incarcerated tribe in the world’

The Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says that Māori make up over 50% of the population, and the Northland tribe Ngāpuhi “is probably the most incarcerated tribe in the world”.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis at the announcement.

Kelvin Davis (RNZ): ‘Ngāpuhi [probably] ‘most incarcerated tribe in the world’

Mr Davis said Māori make up over 50 percent of the prison population, and he wants that number reduced.

“Of that 50 percent, half again, are from Ngāpuhi, my own tribe, so this is personal.

“My tribe of Ngāpuhi is probably the most incarcerated tribe in the world, per head of population, so we really have to look at what we’re going to do differently as a country, to turn these figures around.”

Mr Davis said Māori must be included in the conversation, and is pleased half of the justice advisory group, set up by the Justice Minister Andrew Little and headed by the former National MP Chester Burrows, are Māori.

“If Māori make up more than 50 percent of the prison population, we should actually be talking to Māori about what the solutions are too.”

More than talking. Māori need to be prominent in implementing solutions.

“The question then becomes, ‘so, what do we do about it?’

“Because if it’s not unconscious bias, well then it’s conscious bias and we’ve got to make changes to make sure that Māori aren’t particularly picked on, or seen as the ones that are committing all the crime.”

Is it policing bias and judicial disadvantage for Māori? Or are Māori  proportionally more inclined to commit crimes. Probably some of all of those things.

He points to an instance in the last year near his home up north, where people were incredibly upset about the imbalance of justice.

“A couple of families who could afford justice, actually got a form of justice. Whereas people who couldn’t afford justice, for lesser offences, actually got a prison sentence. And that sort of stuff is not right.”

The cost of ‘justice’, of defending oneself in the court system, is a major issue. If you can afford a good lawyer your chances of being found not guilty or of a reduced sentence will be greater.

Mr Davis said they were looking at all aspects of the system to make sure it was fair for everybody.

He said the justice summit this week is an opportunity for people from all parts of the system to have their say.

“We’re expecting a lot of thought and a lot of ideas to come out of this, and we’ve got to sift through and see which ones are the best ones that can make a short term difference, medium and long term differences,” he said.

It isn’t going to be easy turning poor crime and imprisonment statistics around for Māori, but different approaches have to be tried, by the police, by the judicial system, and probably most importantly, by Māori communities and iwi.

Davis can play a significant role in finding social and judicial solutions for Ngāpuhi in particular.

And there are wider issues that probably contribute to the problems up north. RNZ: Little meets with Auckland-based Ngāpuhi members

The Treaty Negotiations Minister, Andrew Little, has met with hundreds of Ngāpuhi members based in Auckland this weekend to discuss the contentious claim.

Ngāpuhi have been quite divided on their treaty claim.

Consensus government or an awful mess?

It’s certainly been a messy week for the Government. Is it a sign of a bigger, awful mess?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tried to paper over some of this weeks cracks by claiming it was consensus government in action, but there were worrying suggestions it was the opposite – both Labour and NZ First ministers look like they are pushing their own agendas with poor or non-existent communication between them.

There are worrying signs of a lack of overall leadership, and this is at a very tricky time, with Ardern distracted by having a baby and due to go on maternity leave as soon as her baby is born (actually as soon as she goes into Labour and goes into hospital).

The big unknown is whether things will spiral more out of control with Winston Peters in charge.

The media have observed this weeks mess and many have commented on it.

Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Three ring circus with one ringmaster at the centre – buckle in for a wild ride

Consensus government in action, or a bloody awful mess?

It’s difficult to characterise the past week as anything but the latter and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be worried about whether she’ll have a Government to come back to when she returns from maternity leave.

Her MPs don’t exactly make it easy for her.

And if this week has illustrated anything it’s what lies at the beating heart of any coalition-related controversy – Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been at the centre of everything.

I don’t think he has. He had nothing to do with the David Clark revelations. And nothing to do with the Green uprising over granting water bottling rights.

And nothing to do with Stuart Nash telling a parliamentary committee he didn’t bother reading advice on what effect increasing poluice numbers might have, and would have ignored the advice if he had read it.

Peters  wasn’t directly involved in Kelvin Davis announcing a new prison that will rely on double bunking to cater for growing prisoner numbers – and Davis went as far as saying they could resort to mattresses on the floor. Peters didn’t directly cause that brain fart, but Labour are limited in becoming more lenient on imprisonment when they require NZ First votes to do any law changes.

But Peters dumped Little in a big mess over 3 strikes.

It began with a hastily-arranged press conference by Justice Minister Andrew Little, to reveal that his grand plan to repeal the three strikes legislation had been shot out of the sky.

He’d spent the previous week giving interviews about his plans to take it to Cabinet and push forward – the only issue was, he did not have the numbers to do so. More embarrassingly for Little, Peters decided to wait until the 11th hour to let him know.

Total humiliation  awaits any member of Cabinet who threatens to step outside the bounds of MMP and attempt a “first past the post”-style power play to get ahead of public opinion – that’s what Little got and really, he should have expected it.

That was in part self inflicted, but Peters played Little then dumped on him big time.

Never one to play second fiddle, Peters also took a starring role in a different drama. Days out from assuming the seat at the head of the Cabinet table was the moment he chose to file papers in the High Court, suing the Government and top officials over their handling of his private superannuation details.

Ardern’s assertions rang out more as pleas, that his actions were a totally private matter. Presiding over a Cabinet that may be liable for an eventual payout to Peters is awkward at best, and a clear conflict at worst – a matter that is most certainly in the public interest.

Peters’ court action looks debatable, but he has made Ardern look weak – or more accurately, Ardern has made herself look weak, just as she is about to hand over most of her power to Peters.

Meanwhile, as sources across multiple polls have suggested NZ First has well and truly settled below the 5 per cent MMP threshold, Shane Jones has pulled out the megaphone to tear strips off Fonterra. A total overstep many might say, of a Minister of the Crown. However, Ardern is adamant these comments were made in a private capacity, despite Jones as good as repeating them in the House.

This again makes Ardern look weak if not impotent in her own Government.

And she is now sidelined, leaving Peters and Jones to take on board this week’s signals and likely do as they please to raise their profile, putting the government at risk.

And Labour’s ministers look increasingly arrogant, uncoordinated and messy.

The Government looks like a bunch of headless chooks, with the fox about to take over the hen house.