Mana-enhancing service for taitamariki

Published: October 4, 2018

We are partnering with Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services to support young people who have offended to make positive life decisions and cultural connections.

Youth remand service led by iwi

Mahuru is a youth remand service developed by Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services with support from our team in Te Tai Tokerau alongside Police.

The service is for taitamariki Māori in Te Tai Tokerau who commit a crime and need to spend time in a safe and stable environment, while they await their court hearing. 

Tamariki who meet certain risk criteria are placed with Ngāpuhi caregivers who can provide a safe and loving home environment.

During the placement they are immersed in mana-enhancing activities with Ngāpuhi mentors to develop their identity and pride as young Māori and achieve the goals outlined in their individual plans.

Members of the Mahuru working group
Members of the Mahuru working group from Oranga Tamariki and Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services

The first service of its kind

It's the first service of its kind. Up until now, the only option available was to place tamariki in facilities or homes outside of the region. This further disconnected them from their whānau and community.

Mahuru helps re-connect taitamariki to their culture and strengthens their sense of belonging within te Whare Tapu o Ngāpuhi, says Youth Justice Manager in Te Tai Tokerau, Aroha Tahere.

“They can remain in Te Tai Tokerau and learn more about who they are and where they are from, rather than being sent out of the region to facilities where they have no existing connections or relationships," Aroha says. 

“Having them locally is really significant to them and their growth, and in order for them to be safe within their own communities." 

Mahuru video


Duration: 3 minutes


In 2017, over 35 taitamariki in Te Tai Tokerau between the ages of 12 and 17 years old committed a crime serious enough to land them on remand in the custody of the state. This meant they were placed either in a youth justice residence or in a community-based remand home. 

Aroha Tahere, Oranga Tamariki Youth Justice Manager, Te Tai Tokerau 

The kaupapa of Mahuru is significant for our mokopuna simply because it allows them to remain within Te Whare Tapu o Ngāpuhi. The collaboration and the partnership we have allows that to happen. It allows them to learn about themselves, it gives them a connection to what they are familiar with and to work with people of Ngāpuhi descent. 


These figures were unacceptable for Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services who have since partnered with Oranga Tamariki and designed an alternative kaupapa Māori service. 

Liz Marsden, General Manager, Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services 

By having this option of specialist one-to-one care with well-functioning whānau, we have the potential to expose these young people to what it might be like to belong to a loving whānau, to have structure and routines in their lives, and to inspire them to want more of that post-sentencing. 


Taitamariki who fall into the detention status 238 (1) (D) under direction of the court, Police and Oranga Tamariki, and have identified themselves as Ngāpuhi, may have the opportunity to be referred to the Mahuru service. 

There are two parts to the Mahuru service. One being the one-to-one placement with Ngāpuhi kaimanaaki who have volunteered to provide a safe, loving home for tai tamariki for up to four-to-six weeks while they are on remand. 

The second major part is to immerse the taitamariki in mana-enhancing activities which involve a tikanga-Māori day program where they are supervised by two experienced mentors to achieve the goals as negotiated in their individual plans. 

Te Oranga Witehira, Mahuru mentor 

The big goal is to implement new ways of looking at the world and new ways of making decisions. Just having a firm understanding of their part in not only their whānau, but the wider community and to hopefully move on from some of the negative and the kino or hara they have been carrying. 

The Mahuru service gives Police and youth court judges another option to consider when a young person commits a crime and has to be supervised while they wait for their court hearing. 

Any option that gives the court the opportunity to place a youth outside of what is effectively a youth prison, has got to be a good option. This is about community organisations and Police working together to keep the youth in the community from which they come so they have the opportunity to learn more about themselves. 

Young person 

It’s a good opportunity for us to get out there and stop us from being naughty boys and to inspire us to do things we have never done before. 


With the right support system in place, the Mahuru team aims to provide taitamariki with a foundation that will support them to turn the corner and choose a better pathway. 

Innovative approach driven by kaupapa Māori

Mahuru is supported by the Judiciary, Police, and Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft.

Judge Becroft says Mahuru is a refreshing approach to remand supervision as it leaves behind institutional residences in favour of individual support for the young person and their whānau.

“This is a great example of creative flexibility by Ngāpuhi and Oranga Tamariki in that it allows whānau, hapu and iwi to respond to the needs of taitamariki in a way that is meaningful and driven by a kaupapa-Māori approach," Judge Becroft says. 

"Mahuru is a step forward in realising the vision of Puao te Ata tu, and it shows a commitment to the Oranga Tamariki Act which calls for more strategic partnerships with iwi, iwi authorities and Māori organisations." 

Indigenous service award

Mahuru has since received an award at the indigenous affairs conference by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government in Melbourne. The award recognises innovative work in designing services for indigenous communities.

At the conference, there was great interest in the formation of equal partnerships between iwi and the Government. Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services General Manager, Liz Marsden, says this was integral for Mahuru along with the legislation, Section 7AA, to realise higher aspirations for tamariki Māori.  

"It was the first time we’d had such an equal partnership with any government department and we commend the Ministry for going down this path.”