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Turia: Independent Police Conduct Authority

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Independent Police Conduct Authority

Friday 26 September 2008; 10.10am

Tena koe, Madam Speaker. Ka nui te mihi ki a koutou.

Firstly, Madam Speaker, before I start my last speech in this Parliament today, I want to mihi to you for your leadership in the House and to thank you.

The announcement at the start of this month, that the Independent Police Conduct Authority would be receiving enhanced powers to arrest police officers and lay criminal charges as a result of its inquiries was welcomed by the Maori Party.

Similarly, we supported the decision in Budget 08 that an extra $4.7 million in operating funding was being appropriated to meet the requirements of the Authority.

Having the authority to make appropriate decisions; and the resources to carry out these tasks, is to our mind imminently sensible.

We in the Maori Party stand by our commitment to principles such as accountability, transparency, kaitiakitanga – the active exercise of responsibility in a manner beneficial to resources and the welfare of the people.

And so we support any initiatives which will assist in strengthening the justice system, and ultimately working to ensure that we all live in safe, secure and peaceful communities.

We have also been greatly impressed by the leadership brought to the Authority, by the appointment of Justice Lowell Goddard of Ngati Te Upokoiri, Ngati Kahungungu and Tuhoe.

Justice Goddard has taken the initiative to visit Ruatoki as part of an inquiry into police actions in the Tuhoe raids.

She made the decision to take an independent oversight of an event in our history which Tuhoe leader, Tamati Kruger described as a gross breach of civil rights.

In his assessment, the breaches included many things.

These are serious charges laid down, and it is vital that every stone is unturned, if we are to enhance the credibility and the reputation of police in Aotearoa.

Justice Goddard also made a symbolic visit to Waitara, to the street on which Steven Wallace was shot. The comment that Steven’s mother, Raewyn Wallace made after that visit, sums up the quality of the presence Justice Goddard has brought to the role.

Mrs Wallace remarked that she was pleased that the Authority was independent, and looking at all of the issues over the police actions and procedures raised and not necessarily addressed in the private prosecution and the inquest.

The Authority is aiming is aiming to release its findings on Mr Wallace's shooting in October. And it will be a report that we will be watching out for.

Importantly, the police must act on its recommendations - which could include that disciplinary action may well be taken against officers.

The decision to re-examine the evidence on the Steven Wallace case certainly reinforces Justice Goddard’s intention, that the Independent Police Conduct Authority will live up to its name and do exactly that - bring independent civilian oversight of the police.

A set of fresh eyes, a new perspective.

As Mrs Wallace said,

"Justice Goddard came to where it happened. She looked and listened. I appreciated that."

The Authority, it would appear, has encouraged a new confidence amongst New Zealanders.

Their report released just at the start of this week regarding the search into the home of Dunedin man, Bruce Van Essen, was even further reinforcement of the important role of the Independent Police Complaints Authority, in helping to restore public confidence and trust in police work.

Given all of these factors then, the decision to appoint new members to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, in normal circumstances, would have been supported by the Maori Party.

But that’s the thing.

It’s about normal circumstances.

We didn’t receive the letter from the Minister concerning appointments to the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Human Rights Review Tribunal until 25 August.

We are all aware that it has been the practice for governments to exercise restraint in making significant appointments in the period leading up to a general election. And usually, this is for a period of about three months. In our analysis, the period of restraint should have begun at the very latest point on the 15th August.

These appointments didn’t meet that threshold, and accordingly we will not be supporting the Notice of Motion, only for that reason, and not because there’s any personal consideration of the nominees.

We believe these appointments should be put on hold to be either confirmed or amended by the incoming Government after the 2008 election.

The Maori Party can not, therefore, support the proposed appointments at this point.

Kia ora


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