Northland iwi Ngati Kahu has vowed to keep paying war veteran Selwyn Clarke for as long as it takes, after his war pension was stopped because he failed to respond to an arrest warrant.
Iwi chief executive Anahera Herbert-Graves said a Facebook page called "Restore Selwyn's War Pension" raised more than $200 on its first day yesterday.
Mr Clarke, 88, was reduced to begging at the Kaitaia market at the weekend after his veteran's pension and disability allowance were stopped on November 23 because he did not respond to a warrant for his arrest over a trespass charge arising from a protest occupation of Kaitaia Airport last September.
"He hated doing this," Ms Herbert-Graves said. "He has basically gone through all his savings. It's just demeaning, but at the same time he does have a political point of view and that is that he was on his own land and he doesn't recognise the legitimacy of anyone to come into the courts."
Iwi chairwoman Professor Margaret Mutu said Mr Clarke took his case to the iwi runanga or "parliament" at the weekend and won the iwi's full backing.
"He takes the view, which quite a few of our people take, that under the Treaty we never acceded our sovereignty, and therefore he does not come under the jurisdiction of the Crown," she said.
Mr Clarke said he had no intention of appearing before the district court so his warrant to arrest could be withdrawn and his veteran's pension restored.
"Attending the court is not in my kaupapa," he said.
"It's not in [the court's] kaupapa to attend the marae, but we need to get together to sort this out. We will do that eventually. When this has blown over a bit, I will invite the judge to sit down and look at how we can address it."
Mr Clarke said he was making his stand for all other New Zealanders, Maori and Pakeha, who could be in jeopardy of the same government policy in the future, and were not aware of it. He said he had no warning from the Ministry of Social Development that he stood to lose his pension. He lost the pension, which he said was worth about $300 a fortnight, in November, but only discovered what had happened when he could not pay his bills. He was still receiving a war pension of about $500 a fortnight.
The Ministry of Social Development said that Mr Clarke was "in full control of his situation and knows what he needs to do to resume payments. When he clears his warrant, we are happy to help and will resume payments".
The law was changed in 2013 to stop all pensions and benefits for people with outstanding arrest warrants. Reports have said 14 superannuitants had their pensions suspended because of outstanding warrants up to early last year.
Northland MP Winston Peters said Mr Clarke's pension should be reinstated because the law under which he was arrested was "highly questionable".
"You have got a law being applied to Selwyn Clarke that, at its foundation, may well be proven to be specious, and therefore an invalid application of the law where he is concerned," he said.