A successful way to deal with offending that helps people in trouble to turn their lives around has been launched in Otago.
The new Te Pae Oraka panel is a partnership between Otago Coastal Area Police and A3 Kaitiaki Ltd (A3K). A celebratory launch event was held today (Friday 11 June) at Ōtākou Marae in Dunedin.
Known elsewhere in the country as Te Pae Oranga, the new Dunedin-based panel is the 17th in New Zealand. Its name reflects Kai Tahu dialect.
Te Pae Oraka is an option for responding to lower level offending that embraces the kaupapa of whakamana (uplifting people, rebuilding their mana) while holding them to account.
Instead of going to court, Te Pae Oraka participants (people who’ve offended) are supported to make a plan to put things right and address problems they are facing. The plan includes actions they must complete and conditions they need to follow. Police Commissioner Andrew Coster welcomed the creation of the new panel, citing it as a fantastic example of Police and Māori working together to achieve better outcomes.
“By holding participants to account and supporting them to make positive changes, Te Pae Oraka will help prevent harm and make Otago safer,” Commissioner Coster said. “For example, supporting people to quit drugs and alcohol means safer homes, and helping someone get their drivers licence means safer roads. Encouraging people into work and training means safer communities.
“We know Police can’t do that alone. Partnerships are vital for helping us make real, long-lasting differences in the communities we serve, and in the lives of people who need our help.”
Commissioner Coster noted the recent endorsement of Te Pae Oraka in Budget 21.
“The Government’s Budget 2021 recently announced nearly $70 million for Te Pae Oraka over the next four years. This is a great acknowledgement of its value and we’re excited to see this programme continue to grow.”
Director of A3K, Michelle Taiaroa-McDonald, commented on the value of Te Pae Oraka in place of prosecution.
“This is the result of many years of work from within our community. Too many people have been sent down the pathway of our criminal courts – even returning with more debt or incarceration, which doesn’t serve the victim nor community at all.
“Te Pae Oraka doesn’t just look at punishment and accountability for behaviour; it delves into the reasons for that behaviour and develops a response to alter their situation so to avoid that behaviour recurring again and again. It’s a holistic, sustainable approach that diverts that flow of people through one pathway of district court, which is a clogged system that only returns more harm.
“Furthermore, Te Pae Oraka is a restorative model, so victims can participate in the process returning a result for them that gives them the attention and outcome they deserve. This has purpose and makes sense.”
Deputy Commissioner Iwi and Communities Wally Haumaha described Te Pae Oraka as “an initiative that incorporates the cultural elements of tīkanga Māori to help people in trouble to get their lives back on track, do right by people harmed by crime, and hold people accountable without going to court.
“It has proven to be more effective than taking a person to court, and supports people of all ethnicities and from all walks of life. The programme is inclusive of the people who take part, their whānau, communities, and both justice and social sector agencies.
“Te Pae Oraka is not a soft option. It can be a confronting experience. Once you accept responsibility for your faults and problems, and ask for help from people in the community, the experience has proven to be life changing.”
An evaluation published in 2019 showed that Te Pae Oraka reduced harm from reoffending by 22 percent.
Southern District Commander Paul Basham is already aware of the power of Te Pae Oraka to change people’s lives for the better.
“The launch of Te Pae Oraka in the Otago Coastal Area is a very welcome step for our rohe… Many of my officers have heard plenty of stories of how people have turned their lives around thanks to our Murihiku Te Pae Oranga panel with Ngā Kete Mātauranga Pounamu.
“Te Pae Oraka is special because it goes beyond rhetoric or symbolism. It is a tangible and practical example of the power of the partnership between Iwi and Police.
“With the launch of Te Pae Oraka, we’ll have more opportunities to work with our community partners to put right the harm from offending and support people to change their lives.”
Te Pae Oraka is widely supported by Māori leaders across Aotearoa, including the Māori King, Kīngi Tuheitia Pōtatau Te Wherowhero VII, who is the programme’s patron.
Te Pae Oraka is also supported by the Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Police, and the judiciary.