Four people have been arrested and charged with murder over the death of Kaitaia man Lee Rata in the town on New Year's Eve.

The four charged are all members or associates of the Mongrel Mob gang.

Mr Rata, 35, was badly beaten on Bonnett Rd in Kaitaia while a wedding party was taking place at a nearby home.

He was found by a passer-by, who called emergency services, but died the following day in Whangarei Hospital.


On January 6, police searched three houses on Leatty St in Moerewa and arrested a number of people, but all on unrelated charges such as burglary and drug dealing.

On Wednesday, officers returned to the same street and arrested three men and a woman, charging all four with murder and aggravated robbery. Three were also charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. They were held in police custody overnight and appeared in the Kaikohe District Court yesterday.

Detective Inspector Kevin Burke said police had been receiving great help from the public, whose information had been crucial in yesterday's arrests.

"The investigation team has been working tirelessly to see these people are held to account," he said.

"I believe that many reluctant witnesses who were in fear of reprisals from gang members will now have the confidence to come forward."

Mr Burke said community representatives in Moerewa were relieved that arrests had been made and urged anyone who knew about Mr Rata's murder or later events to contact police, he said. Call the Kaitaia station on (09) 408 6500 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

- Lester Pairama, 17, Christopher Mana Manuel, 36, Juanita Rafael Wilcox, 26, and Joseph Martin, 41, all of Moerewa, appeared in the Kaikohe District Court yesterday jointly charged with murder and aggravated robbery.

Court documents listed the property taken in the robbery as a leather vest and a length of chain. Manuel, Wilcox and Martin were also charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. All four were remanded in custody until February 25 when they are due in the High Court at Whangarei.