Part 6: Responding to Māori

Co-ordination and Collaboration in the Criminal Justice Sector.

Key Findings

There is no sectoral response to Māori in the criminal justice system that would enable agencies to share good practice or co-ordinate their efforts to respond effectively to Māori as clients and stakeholders.

The criminal justice agencies have responded to Māori in quite different ways, establishing their own structures and arrangements in isolation from other agencies in the sector.

The agencies recognise the significance of their relationship with Māori as Treaty partners and as offenders and victims of crime.

Agencies gather and hold considerable data about their interactions with Māori, and have information about the impact of Māori offending on their individual businesses. However, we found no evidence that agencies share this information so as to enable the sector to develop a co-ordinated response to Māori interactions with the criminal justice system.

The sector agencies vary in the soundness of their relationship with Te Puni Kōkiri – limiting their ability to work together to achieve positive outcomes for Māori.


The Department of Corrections has produced a Framework for Reducing Māori Offending. Other agencies could use this framework for their policy development, adapted to their individual circumstances.

The Police and the Department of Corrections have Māori advisory groups that advise, respectively, the Commissioner and the Chief Executive. We encourage all justice sector agencies to consider establishing such groups, which can serve as a valuable advisory resource for their Chief Executive, providing a Māori community perspective on issues for the agency.

An integrated sectoral strategy should be developed to focus on system-wide outcomes for Māori. The existing justice sector Chief Executives Forum should consider establishing a senior officials forum to develop this strategy.

Sector agencies and Te Puni Kōkiri should ensure constructive relationships exist to work together on issues for Māori.


Māori are over-represented in the criminal justice system. In 1998, Māori were 3.3 times more likely to be apprehended for a criminal offence than non-Māori. Māori were more likely to be prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to imprisonment, and more likely to be victims of crime than non-Māori. As a result, Māori make up 51% of the prison population, although comprising only 14% of the general population.12 This gap is widening. To address high and growing levels of Māori offending and victimisation, the criminal justice agencies need to work to a co-ordinated sector strategy.

In September 2000, the Crime Prevention Unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet13 released the Report on Combating and Preventing Māori Crime: Hei Whakarurutanga Mō Te Ao. This report recommended a number of ways in which the sector could improve its response to the issue of Māori crime, including:

  • reducing Māori offending rates by improving effectiveness for Māori and setting priorities among strategies and programmes to address risk factors for Māori;
  • developing an integrated strategy framework on crime reduction, building consistency and co-operation between agencies; and
  • finalising departmental Māori responsiveness strategies as the foundation for an integrated strategy to guide crime prevention work across the criminal justice and social policy sectors.

We expected the criminal justice agencies to have:

  • identified Māori as the Treaty partner and acknowledged the significance of this relationship through their mission and goals. Recognising their Treaty obligations should enable agencies to translate their mission and goals into strategic plans, policy development and, where appropriate, their operations; and
  • articulated their Treaty obligations as a sector.

We discuss below structures and organisational arrangements within each of the core criminal justice agencies to meet their Treaty obligations and respond effectively to Māori. We did not examine the activities of operational groups within the criminal justice agencies that have significant interaction with Māori as part of their everyday business.

Agency Responsiveness to Māori

Ministry of Justice

The Ministry has allocated limited resources to respond to Māori at an organisational level. They have one half-time person whose role includes the provision of advice on Māori issues for projects within the Public Law, Criminal Justice and Corporate Services Groups. There are neither supporting staff nor a budget. Limited resources to address organisation-wide issues for Māori are likely to hamper the Ministry’s ability to take a vigorous role in leading the sector’s response to Māori.

Responsibility for responding to Māori on a day-to-day basis rests with the individual policy units. The Ministry uses Māori advisory groups where necessary, and there is a good level of contact between the Crime Prevention Unit and Māori through the Ministry’s work with the Safer Community Councils.

Department for Courts

In 1999 the Department for Courts established an Organisational Treaty Responsibilities Unit that has been renamed Te Wahapū14 This unit has two functions:

  • leading the Department in giving effect to its Treaty of Waitangi obligations; and
  • advising on and reviewing the Department’s interactions with Māori.

The unit has two staff and a small operational budget. The unit has produced a Māori Responsiveness Framework with four key areas of focus:

  • Policy – development and operation.
  • Capability – people, systems, resources and processes.
  • Service – quality and customer focus.
  • Sector – collaboration, connectedness and interaction.

Department of Corrections

The Department of Corrections has actively sought to establish structures and arrangements to give effect to its Treaty obligations and to respond effectively to Māori. Reducing re-offending by Māori is a key strategic goal for the Department of Corrections, which has identified three further goals in this area:

  • partnership;
  • effectiveness; and
  • responsiveness.

The Department has a Treaty of Waitangi Strategic Plan, which was recently updated, and a Māori Responsiveness Strategy. The Department also has a Cultural Perspectives Group and a Treaty Relationships Unit.

The Department has developed a Framework for Reducing Māori Offending, as part of its Māori responsiveness strategy, and to inform the policy development process. The framework represents a means for integrating tikanga Māori into departmental operations, and encourages consultation with Māori to develop effective policy, initiatives and research. Adapted as appropriate, the framework could be used by other agencies for similar purposes.

The Department also has a Chief Executive’s Māori Advisory Group that meets quarterly. The aim of the group is to enable the Department to become more responsive to Māori needs through a reduction in the rate of re-offending by Māori. With an external membership, it provides independent advice to the Chief Executive on:

  • strategic policy and operational issues affecting Māori;
  • Treaty of Waitangi issues as they affect the Department of Corrections;
  • consultation with Māori;
  • tikanga Māori;
  • progress on responding to re-offending by Māori;
  • cultural responsivity of the Department; and
  • development of Māori staff and human capital initiatives.

The Group also facilitates feedback to and from Māori, providing a valuable channel for communication between the Department and the community. The Group represents a possible model for other agencies as they seek to make their strategies, policies and operations more responsive to Māori.

The Police

Reducing offending and victimisation involving Māori is a key priority area for the Polic e. One of the most critical relationships the Police have is with Māori.

The Police have clearly articulated their relationship with Māori and their commitment to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Police have made a commitment to apply Treaty principles to their business, and integrate Treaty principles and Māori values and principles into strategies to address the over-representation of Māori as offenders and victims.

The Commissioner of Police convenes a Māori Focus Forum, designed to:

  • promote initiatives to reduce Māori representation in the criminal justice sector;
  • improve Police relationships with Māori; and
  • provide input into strategy and decision-making.

Police Districts have similar Māori advisor forums.

In October 2002 the Police established the Office of Māori, Pacific and Ethnic Services (OMPES), which is seen by the Police as a natural progression of work over the previous six years, particularly in relation to Māori. OMPES works with District Commanders to consolidate the Police’s activity in responsiveness to Māori.

Sector Responsiveness to Māori

The agencies recognise the significance of their relationships with Māori, both as partners to the Treaty of Waitangi, and as a group over-represented in the population as offenders and victims. Agencies gather and hold considerable information about the interaction of Māori with the criminal justice system. The agencies are aware of the impact on their individual businesses of interactions with Māori as offenders and victims. However, the impact on the operations of the sector have not been analysed; nor has a strategy been developed to address such impacts.

As discussed above, the criminal justice agencies have developed a range of individual structures and arrangements to give effect to their own Treaty obligations and departmental strategies for responding to Māori. However, the criminal justice sector has not developed a collective response as a group of agencies interacting with Māori at different stages of the criminal justice chain.

The Report on Combating and Preventing Māori Crime: Hei Whakarurutanga Mō Te Ao, recommended in September 2000 that there was a need for an integrated approach to reducing Māori crime across the criminal justice sector. This recommendation has been considered by the sector. The sector believes that the most appropriate way to respond to Māori is through strategies such as the Crime Reduction Strategy.

We encourage the agencies to consider establishing a forum of senior officials, with representation from each department, to:

  • lead and co-ordinate a sector response to issues facing Māori in their many interactions with the criminal justice system, and in particular in relation to Māori offending;
  • develop strategies for liaison and consultation between the sector and Māori;
  • establish links between agency-specific structures and arrangements;
  • provide a central point for sector consideration of policy proposals and operational initiatives with implications for Māori;
  • share information about Māori in the criminal justice system; and
  • promote best practice.

Te Puni Kōkiri

Some sector agencies have stronger relationships with Te Puni Kōkiri than others. A breakdown in communications between officials at Te Puni Kōkiri and some of the agencies had affected working relationships. We understand that action has been taken to address the breakdown.

While we found no single cause for this breakdown, the matter highlights the importance of effective and timely links between agencies and the need to have in place established arrangements to ensure timely engagement and communication occurs on an ongoing basis.

12: Report on Combating and Preventing Māori Crime: Hei Whakarurutanga Mō Te Ao, Crime Prevention Unit, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, September 2000.

13: This unit is now part of the Ministry of Justice.

14: Te Wahapū is the point at which the river and sea meet. In the context of the Department, Te Wahapū is a point where the Department and Māori interact from a Treaty perspective.

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