The man accused of selling fake passports to Pacific Island overstayers says he will be using the recently-signed United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in his defence.
Gerard Otimi faces 36 counts of altering a document with intent to deceive and one of giving immigration advice without a licence. Otimi is representing himself at a pre-trial hearing at the district court in Manukau today.
Mr Otimi argues that the Crown has no jurisdiction to bring the charges against him on the basis of Tino Rangatiratanga (self-determination).
The charges relate to the alleged alteration of Samoan and Tongan passports, following the sale of visas issued in the name of a Maori hapu.
He said he planned on using the UN Declaration, recently signed by Dr Pita Sharples on behalf of the Government, because "it's a very new situation that has changed."
"I am a kaumatua of my own hapu and I have been given rights by my own dad in the use of tikanga," he said.
Mr Otimi cited the 1835 Declaration of Independence and said the Treaty of Waitangi was a document signed to help govern pakeha.
"The Treaty of Waitangi to us is the immigration document that allowed white settlers to come to New Zealand."
Mr Otimi hails from Ngati Maniapoto but the Maniapoto Maori Trust Board told the Herald last year it had not heard of the hapu under which he promoted his scheme.
Mr Otimi said he was trying to help people who "had nowhere to turn to".
"I received hundreds of complaints [from immigrants] and I did not take these to court because it would have overloaded it."
Crown prosecutor Ross Burns said there would be 120 witnesses for the Crown and defence. A trial, if it goes ahead, would likely take over two months.
Mr Otimi has told the court that he would be calling witnesses from Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Niue and French Polynesia, many of whom will require translators.
Mr Burns said: "The difficulty is there are a large number of witnesses in the country as overstayers and as time goes by, they are leaving for various reasons."
Mr Otimi said he had been in touch with the police and the immigration department "before it hit the fan" and did not have anything to hide.
"I was looking for solutions for people - everyone - Maori, pakeha and everyone."By Edward Gay @edwardgay Email Edward