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Labour and Greens ignore Maori over prison

17 May 2004 Labour and Green parties continue to ignore Mäori over prison outcomes

“Maori interests are being ignored in the political debate over Auckland Central Remand Prison,” said Eru Thompson of Tamaki Makaurau.

“There has been a lot of debate over the last few weeks regarding the Government’s intention to take this prison back under the management of the Correction’s Department, despite the fact that this prison has performed beyond expectations for Maori.

“We all know that the record of our State prisons has been appalling over many years, and there is no evidence that there has been any change to this experience,” he said.

“The problem with Corrections goes back years and the recent court rulings relating to the illegal implementation of the Behaviour Management Regime at Paremoremo is testament to that.

“It surprises me that Nandor Tanczos, the Green spokesperson on Corrections thinks that prison culture in our publicly managed prisons is going to improve overnight. Here we have a prison that is functioning superbly for inmates, our community and the Government.

“However, the backing of the Greens is going to reverse the progress that has been made here and will result in negative outcomes for inmates - all for the sake of politics.

The Greens face a choice between supporting their policy in relation to Mäori determining solutions to the problems facing our people, or blindly opposing private management at a major cost to Mäori,” said Mr Thompson.

This is a very simple issue and there is no room for any confusion. We tried for years to work with the Department of Corrections and it hasn’t worked. And we didn’t get this opportunity until ACRP came on the scene and now the Green Party want to take that away.”

Mr Thompson said that in supporting Labour on this clause, the Greens were actively reversing a process that has included Mäori as a partner and has worked in the best interests of our people – a decision that has delivered outstanding results for Mäori.

“We believe – in fact we know - that reversing this is a backward step. Nandor Tancos may be well intentioned in his approach, but he is ignoring the realities. If it is not broken, then it shouldn't be fixed. And Auckland Central Remand Prison is not broken,” he said.

“In talking with Metiria Turei and Nandor Tanczos, I have signalled that Mäori will not take this sitting down anymore. The Greens cannot have it both ways. The party must decide whether Mäori or the party’s relationship with the Labour Party is more important.

“This is another example of Government and the Greens patronising Maori with the ‘we know best’ approach, rather than the ‘what is best’ approach.

“In order for the Public Prison Service to compare with ACRP, there is a need to have direct and ongoing sustainable relationships with the local hapu of the respective areas, because of the kaitiakitanga role, something that the public prison service has not maintained with iwi groups in the ACRP area,” said Mr Thompson.

“Taking just the programmes from the ACRP experience and placing them in the public prison environment does not solve the problems in our prison system, it simply adds to the confusion that already exists.”


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