There was an audible gasp from the audience at a Canadian restorative justice conference in Alberta held in November when the Ministry’s manager of Community Services, Hayley Mackenzie, told them that the New Zealand Government spent $9 million every year on restorative justice services.
One week prior to the conference, the government of the province, with a population the same size as New Zealand, had proudly announced that it had doubled its annual spending on restorative justice from $350,000 to $700,000!
“It was fascinating to see how similar things were between Alberta and New Zealand,” says Hayley. “A lot of the issues in Alberta and New Zealand are the same, but we are a world leader in restorative justice because our government has developed and funded restorative justice where other countries haven’t.”
In her keynote speech to the conference Hayley described New Zealand’s long history of developing restorative justice from Judge Mick Brown’s pioneering work in 1989, and the establishment of Family Group Conferences, to how the system operates today because of a series of major legislative reforms.
Hayley also spoke about the complex challenges of managing restorative justice in New Zealand. She described the value of having dedicated Ministry staff act as “contract providers” to support community providers of restorative justice, and how this has improved their relationship with the Ministry. She also spoke about ensuring that providers were accountable for their performance under their contracts, measuring the quality of their services, the Ministry’s procurement processes and working with Māori restorative justice providers.
“The speech was very well received,” she says. “I think it struck a chord with many of the community groups there. The Canadians feel they have so much to learn from us with restorative justice.”