James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Lawyer confident activist's appeal bid will get nod

Tame Iti wants to discuss with the Parole Board and Government his ideas to cut back the numbers of young Maori men going to jail. Photo / Christine Cornege
Tame Iti wants to discuss with the Parole Board and Government his ideas to cut back the numbers of young Maori men going to jail. Photo / Christine Cornege

The lawyer for Maori activist Tame Iti is confident his application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against his conviction and sentence will be successful.

Yesterday, Iti was welcomed on to Hukanui Marae in Gordonton just a couple of hours after he was released from Waikeria Prison having served nine months of a 2-year sentence on six firearms charges.

The charges stemmed from a police raid in the Urewera Ranges in 2007 that led to the arrest of 18 activists and saw Iti found guilty in the High Court at Auckland over alleged military-style camps.

His lawyer, Russell Fairbrother, yesterday said he had applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

"There are two considerations; one is an important point of law and public interest and we think we cover both bases," Mr Fairbrother said.

"I think it's quite a complex decision for them and I expect it will take a bit of time. I will be disappointed if they don't accept it. I do think they will, though," he said.

Iti responded to questions in both Maori and English, saying he had received letters of support from throughout New Zealand and England, New York, Hawaii and Mexico.

Flanked by his son Wairere, Mr Fairbrother and Mana MP Hone Harawira, Iti said he was looking forward to returning to his Ruatoki home to see his wife and small dog and to have a feed of mutton birds.

He said prison had been enjoyable and he had used his time constructively, painting, reading and contributing as a kaumatua in the prison's Te Ao Marama Maori focus unit - where he was considered a model inmate.

He also kept himself fit in preparation for the Iron Maori event being held in Hawkes Bay this year, began writing a book about political prisoners and wrote a number of recipes for a cookbook.

But he wanted to discuss with the Parole Board and Government his ideas to help curb the numbers of young Maori men going to jail.

"I'm really sad that a large amount of young Maori men are in there; they are supposed to be our future," he said. "It's a failure of the system why we have so many young men down there."

When a reporter asked if he was in possession of firearms or if he planned to get any more, Iti replied that his relationship with weapons was an integral part of Tuhoe customs and often misconstrued.

"It's not a new thing ... it's an intricate part of my culture of my tikanga and kawa, so what's the crime about that?

"But if you're talking about Tame Iti carrying and walking with a gun on Queen St then you have something to talk about. That's another issue altogether. You didn't see Tame Iti with a gun in the middle of Christchurch or Wellington. I don't do that, that's not my culture."

Shortly before Iti and his whanau left for Rotorua to meet supporters en route to Ruatoki, Wairere Iti said his father's time in jail had been a "small part" of a six-year saga.

"Even though there's been a sentencing and an appeal, it feels like we are getting near the end ... We are hopeful for an end and a resolution to this," he said.

Tame Iti remains on parole until October next year.

His co-offender Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara will be released next week.

Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were also found guilty of firearms charges and were sentenced to nine months' home detention at their dwelling in Parihaka, Taranaki.

- NZ Herald

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