Crown called to act over Maori reoffending rate

The Crown is in breach of its Treaty of Waitangi obligations by failing to give priority to cutting the high rate of Maori reoffending, the Waitangi Tribunal has found.

The difference between Maori and non-Maori reoffending rates is substantial and undisputed, the tribunal says in a report released on Tuesday.

It contributes to the disproportionate imprisonment of Maori, who make up half of New Zealand's prisoners, despite being only 15 per cent of the population.

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.

The report also recommends that the Crown should have a dedicated budget to provide adequate resources for the new strategy.

In July, the tribunal heard under urgency a claim by retired senior probation officer Tom Hemopo.

Mr Hemopo alleged the Crown had failed to make a long-term commitment to reducing the high rate of Maori reoffending relative to non-Maori.

The tribunal looked at efforts by Corrections to reduce the overall rate of reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017 against a 2011 baseline.

It said the most recent statistics showed Maori progress toward the target had slowed dramatically, while the disparity with non-Maori progress had widened.

The situation was urgent and the Crown had to give urgent priority to the issue "in clear and convincing ways".

But the tribunal said Corrections had no specific plan, strategy, target or budget to reduce Maori reoffending.