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Iwi group staggered at Green prison priorities

18 February 2004

Iwi group staggered at Green prison priorities

A board representing six Northern iwi today said it was staggering that the Greens appeared more concerned with conspiracy theories on what was happening in prisons overseas than what was happening to inmates in New Zealand.

Iwi Whanui O Tamaki Makaurau represents six iwi in a partnership with the privately managed Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP).

Iwi Whanui Chair, Te Warena Taua, said he was astonished by comments from Green MP Nandor Tanczos today in which he admitted that ACRP was a well managed prison, but would oppose the current management because of unsubstantiated stories from abroad.

“The Greens have their priorities the wrong way around. Our publicly managed prisons are in perpetual crisis and the inmates inside them are really suffering. Now is not the time to be playing ideological games and taking theoretical positions,” said Mr Taua.

“I challenge Nandor to tell us exactly what he has negotiated with Paul Swain which is going to turn our failing prison system around. Nandor knows our prisons, with the exception of ACRP, are appalling failures, so what is the alternative and what change has he secured?

“What difference is Nandor going to make for our inmates and their families, and what difference will he make for Mäori? It is all very well for him to talk about ‘perverse incentives’, but that talk should be reserved for our own public prison service.

Mr Taua said his Board was angry and frustrated with the Green position, but stressed that it was all inmates, not just Mäori, who would continue to suffer as a result.

“Nandor is supporting the management of this country’s most successful prison being taken away based on some way-out theories of what he perceives to be happening overseas. His focus should be on improving what is happening right here at home.

“This is all the more appalling given that Nandor recently turned down an invitation to visit privately managed prisons in Australia to see for himself how they are performing, and that he never bothered to turn up to hear submissions at the select committee hearing this bill,” he said.

“Had he bothered to make an effort, he would be under no illusions about the strength of Mäori opposition to the Government’s Bill he is now so vehemently supporting.”

Mr Taua said the Greens were turning their back on their policy commitments to Mäori and, despite strong words on the need for dialogue and consultation, had failed to either consult with or listen to the concerns of Mäori in this key area.

“What this whole exercise is showing is that the Green Party has all the right policy in relation to Mäori but, when it comes to the crunch, blind ideology prevails.

“Nandor has had a once in a lifetime opportunity to back Mäori in their dealings with the prison system but, instead, he will simply deliver more of the same failure and disappointment,” said Mr Taua.

“When this Bill is passed Mäori will no longer have a say in who is best able to manage our prisons, as we did with the spectacular success at ACRP. Maori were counting on Nandor’s support on this, and we feel badly let down by his shoddy performance and poor excuses.”

ENDS

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