Whāngārei next town to host Rangatahi Court

By Peata Melbourne

New Zealand's fifteenth Rangatahi Court will open at Terenga Parāoa Marae in Whāngārei early next year, a decade after the first court was established in Gisborne in 2008.

Rangatahi Courts are judicially-led initiatives for young offenders, reconnecting them with their cultural identity and providing rehabilitative care.

Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker says providing culturally responsive justice is vital when two-thirds of those appearing in the Youth Court are Māori.

“This is a significant addition to the approaches available to the Youth Court in Whangārei for delivering effective interventions to address the underlying causes of offending,” says Judge Walker.

In Northland last financial year, 134 young people appeared in Youth Court, just over half of those in Whangārei.  More than 80% of those young people were Maori.

Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue acknowledges the contribution of local Māori in and around Whāngārei to the initiative.

“The establishment of a Rangatahi Court requires a big commitment from the local community to provide the sort of support, insights and knowledge of tikanga that makes these courts so impactful.  District Court Judges appreciate this generosity and engagement, and also the support and resources of the Ministry of Justice,” says Judge Doogue.

Rangatahi Courts are an option for those who have admitted to their offending or had charges proved in the Youth Court and choose to undergo monitoring of their family group conference plans in a marae setting. 

Marae social services and kaumātua and kuia provide guidance under the leadership of a Youth Court judge.

“Whangārei Terenga Parāoa Marae is part of an inclusive marae complex that allows Māori of the district to come together and we hope that a Rangatahi Court there will provide an alternative for young people and their whānau, hapū and iwi,” says Judge Walker.

A 2014 Ministry of Justice analysis of reoffending rates estimated that young people who appeared in a Rangatahi Court were 11% less likely to re-offend.

Whangārei’s Judge Greg Davis and Hamilton-based Judge Denise Clark have led the development of the Whangārei court.

In the initial months, Judge Clark (Ngāpuhi), who is originally from Kohukohu, Hokianga and has developed Rangatahi Courts in Hamilton and Huntly, will be the presiding judge. 

Judge Greg Davis (Ngāpuhi) will take over later in 2018.

The court will officially open on the 24th of February.