Exclusive: Police told not to ticket unlicenced Maori drivers in South Auckland

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 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 whom ONE News has spoken to in South Auckland say they find this confusing and they have not been with 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.

"If that upsets a few people who don't want to do that then that's their conscience to examine," says Superintendent Haumaha.

On the streets where this is happening, the reaction is mixed.

"Either do it for all or don't do it for anybody," says one woman.

A man says: "If people are breaking the law they should be facing consequences about it."

While another woman says: "Nah that's good then. It's better to actually try and get your licence."

The police position remains that the document is simply a guideline and not an instruction to staff, and is not about race.

"I can't emphasise enough to you that to single this out as a race issue in my view is totally mischievous," says Superintendent Haumaha.

ONE News was told there is no data available on the number or ethnicity of drivers that have been dealt with under this guideline.

Meanwhile police sources say in South Auckland staff are still being told not to ticket unlicensed Maori drivers.