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Otago coastal area police and Otakou Runaka launched Te Pae Oraka, a blending of Maori values and worldview with restorative justice practices, at Otakou Marae yesterday.
People who had accepted responsibility for crimes including common assault, shoplifting, wilful damage or disqualified driving, could now face a panel of their peers rather than the criminal justice system, Te Pae Oraka co-ordinator Jacqui Galliven said.
And it would mean fewer people going through a "clogged up" court system.
"This is a warning space rather than a judiciary space," Mrs Galliven said.
"It’s really promising; it’s a ground-breaker, and I’m really excited about it coming to Otepoti."
The process could result in participants paying for damages, apologising, taking steps to deal with problems that led to the offence, or performing community work.
It would address harm, but did not result in a life-changing criminal conviction, she said.
It had been done for generations by iwi, and felt like a "natural" process for many connected to Maoridom, she said.
But it was open to anyone regardless of their background.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said Te Pae Oraka would help prevent harm and make Otago safer.
Supporting people to quit drugs and alcohol meant safer homes, and helping someone get their driver licence meant safer roads, Mr Coster said.
Encouraging people into work and training meant safer communities.
"We know police can’t do that alone."
The Government’s Budget 2021 recently announced nearly $70million for Te Pae Oraka over the next four years, he said.
It was a great acknowledgement of its value.
"We’re excited to see this programme continue to grow."
The first Te Pae Oraka panel convenes next week.