Appropriations (2013/2014 Estimates) Debate
Te Ururoa Flavell, Co-leader of the Māori Party
Appropriations (2013/2014 Estimates) Debate – Committee stage
Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. Tēnā tātou katoa.
The report of the Law and Order Committee took me by surprise from the opening statements of the Minister of Police. Minister Tolley, talking about the aspect of visible policing, had this to say: “public confidence has never been higher. So public confidence and trust in the police is the best it’s been.”
Unfortunately for Minister Tolley, someone in the department forgot to point out to her the recent research released on the New Zealand Police website, published just two months ago, in May 2013. The study in question, Building Diversity, was undertaken to explore factors that influence Māori to apply for and join the New Zealand Police. The researchers, Nan Wehipeihana, Elizabeth Fisher, Kellie Spee, and Kataraina Pīpī, put forth evidence that utterly challenges the basis of the Minister Tolley’s hope for public confidence.
Let me share some of the comments in the study that reveal poor perceptions of the police within Māori communities and a lack of trust and confidence in the police, policing, and therefore a job with the police. People who were going to be recruited and iwi liaison officers at the time both talked in particular around the Tūhoe operations. One recruit said this: “You’d want to have Māori Police officers on the ground right in there, but then I wonder if we could influence the way things were done. Not sure we could have a say or be heard. Think we might just get swept away beneath Police procedure?”.
That was one recruit. An iwi liaison officer had this to say: “The perception of police by our people was not helped by Operation Eight—the Tūhoe incident. This cast a negative light on the police.” Another iwi liaison officer said this: “There is a lack of trust and confidence in what is essentially a Pākehā organisation.”
So it is no surprise that the Māori Party comes to this debate extremely keen to see how the ongoing issues of lack of Māori confidence in police are dealt with in the context of this estimates bill. Just to remind us for those who may well have forgotten, last month the Independent Police Conduct Authority report found that in some areas police acted “unlawfully, unjustifiably and unreasonably” during the raids of 2007. The Independent Police Conduct Authority Judge David Carruthers said in the report: “The detention of the occupants at five properties of 41 properties raided was “unlawful and unreasonable”. Police were also criticised for the unnecessary stopping and searching of vehicles and taking 66 photos of drivers and passengers including children. It left some people feeling “degraded and intimidated”.
Just a month ago I raised these issues in the House, speaking about the trauma of many people who were raided, which had still had not actually been heard. I then went to the Māori Affairs Committee and ask its members to consider the opportunity to listen to the voices of those affected by Operation Eight , to commission an inquiry into the impact of Operation Eight that it had on Ruātoki and Tāneatua residents.
Neither National nor Labour would agree. So now here we have an opportunity to expose the New Zealand Police to the scrutiny of the public, to see how they are dealing with the longstanding issues of injustice and inequality. So what does the Law and Order Committee report tell us? Three things. First, it describes the Australian Police recruiting New Zealand officers in 2012-13. Secondly, it reports with great excitement about the use of iPhones for collecting and communicating information. Thirdly, the committee asked questions of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mike Bush, regarding his comments at a former police officer’s funeral.
Just wait on a minute, Mr Chair. This is all supposed to be breaking news in response to the issues of injustice and inequity, of unlawful and unreasonable actions by police in respect of Operation Eight, which is meant to restore the faith and confidence in police, and we are talking about cellphones.
In case there is any doubt about whether the police have a very real issue around public confidence and faith, then we need to look at the advice of the United Nations, and in particular the findings of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. That committee, not just this year but back in 2005 as well, has condemned this country for the disproportionately high rates of incarceration and overrepresentation of members of the Māori and Pasifika communities at every stage of the criminal justice system.
Just putting that into the context of the police, Māori now comprise more than 40 percent of all police apprehensions despite being only 15 percent of the population. Is anybody actually worried about that? Well, it seems that iwi Māori are.
Six months ago a plan drawn by Te Arawa, Ngāpuhi , Ngāti Whātua, and Tainui and strongly endorsed by iwi leaders around the country was released to the world. For the education of the Committee, that plan was called Turning the Tide and I want to share some of the thoughts—perhaps better phrased, the frustrations—of iwi in getting this strategy even off the ground in the first place. One of the members of the Māori Focus Forum is Dr Apirana Mahuika . He said that in 1996 he laid down a challenge to the police on behalf of iwi. He said:
"E tū ki te kei o te waka, kia päkia koe
e ngā ngaru o te wā”.
Stand at the stern of the waka and feel the spray of the future biting at your face.
What he was referring to in those words was that most Māori who are victims or who are directly involved in crime are under the age of 25 years. In the words again of Dr Mahuika: “With our population of young people growing, if we do nothing, then even more Māori will end up in hospitals, police cells, courts and prisons.” He closed by saying “We can’t let that happen.”
I share these words with our leaders in the Chamber today because this is very, very important. This is about shaping our future. It is about setting the directions for tomorrow. Should not we be interested in that? Surely. What we know is that iwi around the country are serious about working with the police to make a long-term change.
What we know also is that the United Nations committee urges New Zealand to intensify its efforts to address the overall representation of members of the Māori and Pasifika communities at every stage of the criminal justice system. The committee even suggested that this can be done best by addressing the existing structural discrimination. So what does the police appropriations estimates say on this critical issue? Well, it talks about iPhones.
I want to remind the Committee that Operation Eight showed the ingrained, system-based, racial discrimination within the police force. Justice has not been served in the eyes of the Māori Party, nor indeed the eyes of the frightened children and whānau, the hapū, and people of Ruātoki, Tūhoe, and Tāneatua. The police need to recognise and acknowledge their failings and to take steps to rebuild that broken relationship. The Māori Party wants to see a system where Māori do not have to fight for injustice, where institutional racism is confronted and addressed.
For those members and indeed the public listening to this broadcast this afternoon I say that I recently read a book called The Prophet and the Policeman, which talks very much about Rua Kēnana, Te Kooti, and a person by the name of Cullen, a policeman who was the first New Zealand police commissioner in this country. It is a very good read and would set the scene for understanding why it would be that the people of the Tūhoe nation and, indeed, Māori feel a little bit disgruntled that there is no admission, no moving forward by the police in respect to what happened in Operation Eight, to at least acknowledge that they did not get it right, and that they could have done things better.
Under those conditions it is a good read about history but it is almost like history repeating itself if you read it today. I hope that members of the Committee will be able to take that opportunity. The book is called The Prophet and the Policeman. It is out of the Parliamentary Library. I would recommend it as a very good read. Kia ora tātou.
Continuing on a theme of justice, I suppose, for this afternoon, I wanted to draw some consideration to two key statements around the administration of justice. Most of us in the House would know, or would have heard of, the two sorts of statements that are often quoted “Justice delayed is justice denied”, which has become code for “injustice”. In effect, it means that if justice is not carried out right away, then even if it is carried out late, it is not really justice because there has been a period of time when there has been a lack of justice. The second words of wisdom come from the black human rights champion, Martin Luther King. He said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
One might think that these statements are statements of intent for how various arms of the justice system should operate, so I want to raise three particular cases to have a look at. I am talking about the situation for the Nēpata brothers and their treatment by the defence forces. I want to talk about Operation Eight with particular reference to the New Zealand Police and, thirdly, the experience of Teina Pora through sentencing in the courts and his subsequent incarceration.
As a starting point, most of us here would say that everyone is equal before the law and that, in perhaps another bigger context, we should take recognition of the recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and its report to decrease racial discrimination within New Zealand.
So let me start with the Nēpata brothers. I know this family. I know these two gentlemen. Damien Nēpata was serving as a lance corporal in the New Zealand Army, when he suffered extensive burns from an accident that occurred while he was driving a tank at the army camp at Waiōuru in 1994. He suffered burns to forty percent of his body.
His brother George Nepata was serving as a private in the army when he was seriously injured in a training accident in Singapore in 1989. He now lives as a tetraplegic. The Nepata brothers have presented petitions to this House on two previous occasions in 1999 and in 2003, for compensation up to the level of entitlement that they would have received had they enlisted after 1992. The downside is that both petitions were rejected by the Government.
The Māori Party could neither tolerate nor accept the lack of action to this whānau, so we wrote to the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, the Minister of Defence, and the Prime Minister to request adequate compensation for the injuries suffered while under the duty of care of the army. We also referred the case to the Māori Affairs Committee, and we are delighted that the committee gave the issue urgent priority. Just to cut to the chase, these injuries and injustices dated back to two decades.
Moving on then to Operation Eight. If ever there was an incidence of institutional discrimination, that was it. I, myself, have spoken at length in this House about the need for justice and fairness for the whānau, the hapū, and the iwi of Tūhoe, and, in particular, the people of the Ruātoki valley in Tāneatua. The Māori Party will not rest until the police recognise and acknowledge their failings, and takes steps to rebuild the broken relationship.
It is not good enough that the findings of the Independent Police Conduct Authority report have not been an immediate trigger to the police to re-engage with affected whānau and look to repair the grievous harm that has occurred. One immediate step could be to amend the police policy manual for encountering children and vulnerable people while executing search warrants. Another could be the mechanism to undertake community impact assessments for operations in any future situations.
Although one would hope that we would all learn from the appalling circumstances of that time around the raids and subsequent delays, there is still work to be done.
Finally, I raise the case of the situation with Teina Pora, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1994 and who has been waiting for a staggering twenty years for the criminal justice system to come up with real evidence. The lack of accountability from the State over this time has meant that Teina and his whānau continue to dwell in an unjustified nightmare.
The Māori Party has supported a Royal Prerogative of mercy from the Governor-General, which provides for a special avenue for criminal cases to be reopened, where a person may have been wrongly convicted and sentenced. It is a constitutional safeguard in our criminal justice system when new evidence raises serious doubt about a conviction. However, when the whānau of Teina Pora wishes to go to the Privy Council to have their views heard, we will also back them 100 percent.