'One law for all New Zealanders' - anger over police moves not to fine unlicensed Maori

Unlicensed Maori drivers caught behind the wheel in South Auckland are getting the chance to avoid a $400 fine.

Documents leaked to ONE News show South Auckland police have been briefed to not ticket unlicensed Maori drivers. Source: 1 NEWS

Police are defending the move, saying it's part of their goal to reduce Maori offending and that it's crucial and it's working.

Documents leaked to ONE News show the "guidelines" police in South Auckland say they've been enforcing since last year.

The paperwork spells out that all Maori drivers caught without a licence or in breach of their conditions are to be referred for training and not given a ticket.

"We then refer them to the panel and the panel looks at a whole range of issues that's caused that person to drive without a licence or why that person hasn't had a licence, and then provides some support," says Superintendent Wally Haumaha of Police National Headquarters.

If after that Iwi and community support the driver has not complied within two months, a $400 ticket is then issued.

It's a small part of what is a nationwide wide programme, Turning of the Tide, aimed at reducing Maori offending. And police say they have the discretion to do the same for non-Maori drivers, but that's not spelt out in the document.

Superintendent Haumaha says it's not an issue based on race. "It's based on the fact that they are a significant part of the problem so we're working with the problem."

Asked how can it not be based on race he says: "Well it just happens to be that more Maori drivers are unlicensed. So if they're unlicensed, we want to know why."

So how do police determine if a driver is in fact Maori? Police who ONE News has spoken to in South Auckland say they find this confusing and they have not been singling out Maori in the first place. They say they've raised concerns with their bosses but have been told it's a new policy and they have to get used to it.

The story gained thousands of comments after being posted on the ONE News Facebook page, with many saying it appeared to be a case of one law for Maori and one law for others.

"Not fair at all! I'm Maori and I highly disagree! We are all the same New Zealanders and Kiwis! So nope," said Summer Taylor Tuhakaraina.

"One law for all New Zealanders, if you can't afford to get a licence get a bus, if your to lazy to get a licence get a fine. Why should all the rest of nz be penalised," said Mike Dymond.

Cody Cooper asked about other ethnic groups that may have members without a licence.

"What about other kiwi families that do not have (for whatever reason) a license? It is not unheard of for non-Maori people to be in poverty also."

Ranaea Waerea highlighted the fact it was a police decision and that Maori should not be criticised over the move.

"Dont point the finger at Māori people, this is a decision that the police themselves made. Its about time racisim towards maori people, any other culture is stopped. At the end of the day its the police choice. Stop pointing your fingers at maori."

The issue of identifying who was Maori and who was not was also raised.

"How would they even know they're Maori? anyone could say they're Maori or do Maori have a special I'd card that says 'I'm a Maori'," said Agnes Eli Teaku.

Some were positive about the move, however.

"Read the article. It's working," said Lana Bartlett. "Do the same thing get the same result. Change something get a different result. Way to go Manukau NZ Police. I hope this initiative is implemented in HB. Then we'll have less whanau going to prison and more competent drivers on the road. Making our roads safer for all."