Government wants to lower Māori prison stats but hasn't set specific target

The shocking overrepresentation of Māori in prisons has been the focus of the Government's criminal justice summit, which started on Tuesday.

But unlike its target to lower the overall prison population, it's failed to set a target specifically for Māori, which had some at the hui angry and frustrated.

The much-lauded justice summit is seeking a fix for New Zealand's broken prison system, including what Justice Minister Andrew Little called our "wildly disproportionate over-representation of Māori".

But all the talk about Māori from the stage brought outrage from the floor. Anzac Wallace, the star of 1983 film Utu, interrupted MP Jan Logie's speech to say action is needed now.

"If that is the case, let Māori speak for us," he told the summit. "Our people need help right now."

Māori make up 16 percent of the general population, but 51 percent of the prison population. There are 10,235 prisoners in our jails, down from 10,800 in March. The Government has promised a 30 percent reduction in 15 years.

The Justice Minister would like to see the Māori prison population in line with the general population - but he hasn't set a specific target for Māori.

Minister for Corrections Kelvin Davis said the issue was personal for him.

"I look around this room and I see Māori," he said.

Mr Wallace disputed that, telling Newshub when he looked around the summit he was "swamped by Pākehā faces".

Fete Taito was a King Cobra gang member, addicted to P and in and out of prison. He knows from experience there's not enough support for Māori prisoners when they get out.

"You can guarantee they come from marginalised areas, so they're leaving prison to go back to marginalised areas. Where there are gang members, there's crime."

Tane Puru has also done time, and says there's not enough support inside either - for Māori, from Māori.

"I'm not happy talking with someone from overseas, and I'm also not happy talking with someone who doesn't know the emotion, the feeling, the passion of what happens when you're in trouble with gang violence, drugs, alcohol and all that."

It's clear there's still a long way to go, but the group overseeing the reforms is 50 percent Māori - and knows the prison stats can't be ignored.