Waatea News Column: Tracey Martin finally talks the talk & why Kelvin Davis must not resign from Corrections


Two major events occurred last week that require comment.

Minister for Children, Tracey Martin, finally criticised Oranga Tamariki staff last week by saying that the State had failed children in their care.

She spoke at Rotorua’s Te Papaiouru Marae on Thursday and let lose a blistering verbal attack on her own department and threatened those social workers who weren’t prepared to change their ways to leave.

This has been a long time coming, the Minister (who is respected around the country) has failed to be critical of Oranga Tamariki and has been accused of glossing over the enormous problems within the agency.

While her words are welcome, the real test will be in the ongoing changes of policy that will not remove Māori children from their parents without enormous consultation with the wider whanau.

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Beyond the Oranga Tamariki fiasco, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis faced questions of resignation after letters from white supremacist terrorist Brenton Tarrant were published on line.

There are 3 very good reasons why Kelvin should not resign.

The first is that prisoners have a legal right to receive and send letters, it is not the Minister’s fault that Corrections failed to vet Tarrant’s correspondence appropriately and quite frankly their claim that there is a problem with the law is a joke.

The second reason Kelvin must not resign as Minister is because unlike any other Corrections Minister in NZ history, he has been able to reduce the prison population by1000 prisoners merely by forcing Corrections to aid illiterate prisoners in filling out the written forms required for them to apply for home detention.

The third reason Kelvin must not resign is because his recently released proposal on healing Māori prisoners inside prison rather than simply punishing them is revolutionary and groundbreaking.

We have one Minister who is talking the talk and another who is walking the walk.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. The Government’s prison reforms

    Hōkai Rangi aims to reduce the incidence of Maori incarceration.

    Under the programme, prisoners will get more visits from whānau and prison staff will be provided with extra training to ensure prisoners are treated with dignity.

    It’s hard to see how these two announced initiatives will reduce the incidence of Maori incarceration.

    First off, it’s targeted at those already in prison, and not those that may potentially end up in prison.

    And secondly, they (the two announced initiatives) merely sound like the are making prisons more accommodating and inviting.

    There is nothing in these two announced initiatives to help prevent Maori from being incarcerated.

    • The Chairman, you don’t know that. You also don’t seem to know that the people in prisons are human beings. So am I. I don’t know about you though.

      Recidivist offending is a tragedy, and anything which may help to avoid it, is well and truly worth trying, and foremost is connecting people to their community and helping them to function positively within their communities. Maori have always been community minded and function(ed) collaboratively within social groupings in a way possibly alien to competitive individualistic Pakeha mores.

      Now, that’s just off the top of my head, but if you don’t know it, then you should. Read a book or something.

      And how do you know what a potential incarceree may glean from whanau who have experienced and learnt from these proposed initiatives ? You know nothing – you’ve closed your mind to reforms before they’ve even been tried, and that is precisely the sort of loser mentality which is being addressed.

      • Evidently, Pip you set the bar low and your reply to me was a low blow.

        My initial post is exactly what we know.

        I’m well aware that people in prisons are human beings. Moreover, can be mistreated to the extent of costing them their life.

        Yes, recidivist offending is a tragedy. However, these two announced initiatives don’t really address that.

        Being treated with dignity and allowing whānau to visit should be a long held expectation already place upon prisons. Not touted as a great new initiative that somehow is going lower the high rate of Maori incarceration. The drivers of which are poverty, mental health, racist bias, etc.

        And these impacts are largely the result of living life on the outside. If things were made better for those that come out and are out, there is far more chance they won’t offend/reoffend. However, these two announced initiatives don’t do that.

        Hence, we should be demanding better from Government rather than cheering this poor effort of announcing something that should have been a long held expectation. So there is something for you to ponder, Pip.

        • Chairman – I do agree with most of what you say here, including, ” The drivers of which are poverty, mental health, racist bias, etc.” The work of the Waitangi Tribunal is trying to redress historic injustices inflicted upon Maori, and whether full compensation – or perhaps, full justice, will ever be possible is a moot point.

          Because better prison practices are now being belatedly introduced, is not reason to knock them though, because any measures which enhance inclusiveness and socalisation are positive and potentially constructive – which is one reason I support full voting rights for all prisoners. Govt measures can’t properly address issues such as outsiders who want in, that’s up to local communities, and it is often NGO’s, and altruistic volunteers working at grass roots level, who are the drivers for change.

          Govt spending over the last decade or so on essential services such as health, housing, and education, which impact harshly upon all the non-rich regardless of colour, has been so negligent, that an essential component of neo-liberalism appears to be that there are people who just don’t matter – except when they’re occasionally needed.

          This, coincidentally, has been accompanied by the retreat of western Christianity – on which I don’t comment, except to say that it has deprived the poor and disadvantaged of a voice which was once helpful.

          • Jacinda Ardern does not support allowing all prisoners the right to vote.

            Therefore, on the one hand, the Government are pushing for inmates to be treated with dignity, while on the other, are saying they are not worthy to vote. So much for the example being set at the top.

            Government measures (such as the minimum wage, the supply of affordable social housing, core benefit rates and taxes incurred, etc) can vastly assist the lifestyles people get to live, thus impacting on their need or desire to offend/reoffend.

            Generally, those that prefer to be in jail tend to find life easier in there than living life on the outside. No high rents to pay, no going hungry, etc.

            Some say serving time is easy, others say it’s hard. It’s largely subjective to where you come from in life.

            So again, the better we can make life on the outside, the far less chance people will offend/reoffend.

            The Government’s role is pivotal in this and we (voters) should be pressing the Government harder on this. The growing reliance on NGOs and community groups is indicative of the Government’s failure to do better.

            When it comes to Government spending or the lack of it, this Government is not much better than the last. Their Budget Responsibility Rules have largely insured that. And apparently, we have James Shaw to thank for putting forward that.

            I wasn’t knocking the notion of upholding expectations when it comes to the treatment of prisoners, it was the notion that this was going to massively reduce the high rate of Maori offending.

            And when it comes to the treatment of inmates, it’s not only the establishments treatment of them, it’s also the influence and treatment they receive from other inmates that can undermine their rehabilitation and lead to extending their time being served.

            As a prisoner, do you listen to the demands of a gang leader and the gang members you are forced to live amongst or do you follow the establishment’s rules, potentially putting your own safety in danger?

            • The Chairman, Hopefully you mean well, but I take exception to your saying, “The growing reliance on NGOs and community groups is indicative of the Government’s failure to do better.”

              I don’t know whether there is a growing reliance, but it has always, always, been a hallmark of civilised societies that people help each other out, and not depend on govt for everything – the primary responsibility of the crown is Defence of the Realm.

              In Britain the first Poor Laws – now welfare legislation – were not enacted until about 1834 when govt, exceedingly reluctantly, accepted grudging responsibility for the welfare of the people.

              Here you’re knocking knocking NGO’s, and then referring to making life better on the outside, which is a tad self-contradictory.

              PM Ardern not supporting voting rights is actually nothing to do with me – write to her. Visit your local MP. Become a prison visitor.

              But let me tell you something. A huge percentage of people in NZ prisons, possibly the majority of the males, lack basic literacy skills. They cannot read.

              It’s an indictment of our education system, and possibly of their whanau, that this is so – but it is something else which is being addressed in prisons, again by volunteers. Chances are some of those guys wouldn’t be incarcerated if they’d had better skills and tools, but as someone who has donated books for remand prisoners, I suggest that you do something practically useful yourself, because all this sniping and conjecture is leading nowhere.

              • Sniping and conjecture is evidently your forte, Pip.

                I’m publicly calling out the Government on their rhetoric and hypocrisy.

                Highlighting Jacinda’s position was in response to your position (which I share by the way) re prisoner voting.

                How can she (Jacinda) expect prison guards to treat prisoners with more dignity, when she herself is publicly stating they are not worthy? Again, so much for leading by example.

                I’d rather the state better cared for beneficiaries and those on low incomes than seeing growing queues, thus growing reliance on food banks.

                I’d rather people were better educated before they end up in prison.

                Addressing it while they are in prison is leaving it far too late.

                I’d rather Housing NZ did its job and housed people rather than a growing reliance on Housing First.

                Government’s are put in by the people, for the people.

                The monarchy is not in physical danger from other states. Moreover, the Queen has her own protection squad to defend her.

                Nor is New Zealand in physical danger from other states.

                The threat to our sovereign state is largely financial/economic, which instead of defending, the Government is largely complicit. For example, TPP, offshore political donations, etc.

                To be blunt, you seem lost and confused when it comes to the duties and responsibility of Government and the responsibility of voters to publicly hold them to account, which explains your low expectation of the state and the notion that I’m merely sniping.

                • Chairman – “To be blunt, you seem lost and confused”:

                  The realm is a colloquialism, for a sphere or domain – no more to do with the Queen or her protection squad than Christendom is a country.

  2. Yes. Everyone knows (don’t you just hate people who say that?) that Tracey Martin is a top notch person who surpasses everyone else in her party by miles. Kelvin Davis is a patently sound and able politician, and media misfits who query things like charisma and similar ephemera should not expect the long-suffering public to accept them as serious political commentators when they’re not. He’s a good man.

  3. I have said it before and i will say it again…..Tracey Martin is one of the best in parliament and that’s saying something and she is in the WRONG party.
    She would make a better Labour MP and she would sort the party out while she is at it.

  4. I doubt Kelvin Davis could be said to talk the talk as when he is interviewed hesee s to find it hard to string two words together to make sense . He refuses to front on most radio shows to answer on any issue. Tracy Martin stands out from the rest of NZF ministers as she gives straight answers and I feel she was let down by Winston over the abortion affair

    • Trevor – Davis may need media training. He’s a qualified teacher, and has worked as a school headmaster, and you don’t get to be doing that by being an idiot. I don’t watch TV, nor listen to radio often, but when he came into his current job, I recall media people dumping on him about how articulate he was, but some of them are just glib and garrulous morons themselves. And show offs.

      • Most NZ Journalists are academically impaired and are lacking in basic intelligence, Mike Hoskings took three years in the 5th form to achieve his School Certificate.

        • @Ngungukai Hosking isn’t a journalist and he doesn’t claim to be.

          Most NZ journalists are uni graduates with post-grad qualifications in journalism.
          Their performance is non-related to academic impairment, OK ? It’s by and large related to politics, and who pays the piper.

  5. Tracey Martin would have to be one of the hardest working and intelligent MP’s we have in Parliament these days ?

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