12 Jul 2013

Cultural respect key to youth crime prevention in New Caledonia

4:59 pm on 12 July 2013

Better engagement with different cultures in an effort to prevent youth crime in New Caledonia has been a key learning for officials on a visit to New Zealand this week.

The contingent from New Caledonia say a blanket approach to policing is proving a hindrance to forging relationships with different ethnic populations in the territory.

Bridget Tunnicliffe reports:

A delegation of four representatives from New Caledonia's southern province have been in New Zealand to learn about police practices for averting youth delinquency. The mayor of Mont-Dore, Eric Gay, who sits on the Southern Province assembly, says one of the things they've picked up from the visit is that more can be achieved when different agencies work together rather than in isolation.

"ERIC GAY: I think in New Caledonia we do a lot of things, but we find here the police, the institutions, the municipalities, and the other communities take the time, how we can work together."

Jean-Yves Lemenant works as a youth advisor for the Southern Province and says youth crime rates are on the rise in terms of everyday crimes like vehicle theft and robbery. The delegation were welcomed by a haka on their visit to a youth justice residence this week and Mr Lemenant says New Zealand police do a good job of engaging with the community and working with different cultures.

JEAN-YVES LEMENANT: Our concern is how to deal with crime which involves Polynesian native people, so we thought that maybe here in New Zealand with programmes especially dedicated for Maori, for instance, that would be a good place to find some new ideas.

Jean-Yves Lemenant says as a French territory they can't change the law of the mainland to better fit the communities in New Caledonia. But he says they can, for instance, design educational programmes which involve the indigenous Kanak people or Polynesian population.

JEAN-YVES LEMENANT: In New Caledonia we have to apply the law from France so we don't have the view, the specific nature of the communities, the population, so we'd like to introduce another approach to how to deal with prevention of crime up to the punishments.

The French Ambassador to New Zealand, Francis Etienne, says the latest delegation is the fourth of a series of visits from New Caledonian officials this year. He says there is already a close connection with New Zealand in business and trade terms, but believes more can be done to foster links between the two countries.

FRANCIS ETIENNE: We think that politically speaking, socially speaking, culturally speaking, there is a lot to be done and this is exactly the case with the delegation where they would like to exchange and learn from New Zealand, but it could be, as well, other examples that I could take about water management or political dialogue.

Francis Etienne says there are further plans for collaboration such as better links with universities.