It is an approach to reduce crime that has grown in the past two and a-half years, particularly since the appointment of Judge Joanna Maze to the Oamaru District Court in 2011.

Set up in 2001 as the Waitaki Safer Community Council with funding obtained from a government crime prevention fund, it became a trust in 2005 when funding was switched to the Ministry of Justice.

Last year the method of funding was reviewed and the trust, along with other groups throughout New Zealand, had to go through a government open contract process.

Waitaki successfully combined with Ashburton, Rangiora, Timaru, Christchurch, the West Coast and Blenheim to put in a joint bid, which provides for up to 100 restorative justice and diversion conferences a year in North Otago, a figure which is likely to be exceeded. The trial period expires on June 30 next year.

''We will always do more than we are contracted for,'' the trust's co-ordinator, former police sergeant Derek Beveridge, said. He is also a qualified facilitator of conferences.

While figures for North Otago are not available, nationally the Justice Ministry said 74% of crime victims felt better after a restorative justice conference, 80% would recommend it to other victims and 84% were satisfied with the process.

At restorative justice conferences, the victim had the opportunity to talk about what had happened and its effect, and take part in proposing how the offender should be dealt with.

Mrs McCone said the court process tended to focus on the offender, but the restorative justice process focused on the victim, who had to agree to take part.