Warning of gang unrest at Waitangi

By Claire Trevett, Yvonne Tahana, Frances Morton

Hone Harawira spoke ahead of his leader. Photo / Richard Robinson.
Hone Harawira spoke ahead of his leader. Photo / Richard Robinson.

Police fear that an Australian motorcycle gang will try to gatecrash the Waitangi Day celebrations today, Labour MP Shane Jones says.

Patched members of the Australian Rebel Gang have been spotted in Waitangi this week fuelling concerns from police and Maori wardens that they are recruiting young Maori protesters.

It comes a week after police said the gang - which is associated with drug dealing and violent crime across the Tasman - was trying to establish a branch in New Zealand.

Jones called on Ngapuhi elders to confront the gang members.

He said: "Ugly truth is the 'Rebels' are recruiting and they are as unwelcome as the sewage spill at Waitangi.

"It's a force of new intimidation and a shame that the white power movement should seek to associate themselves with the rangatahi empowerment movement which has a legitimate place in our nation."

The warnings came as renegade Maori Party MP Hone Harawira delivered a "state of the Maori nation" address last night - upstaging party leader Pita Sharples who gave his own speech at a function nearby.

Harawira told a panel of Maori leaders that his party needed to remember they didn't represent mainstream New Zealand.

"We are a Maori party. I'm bloody proud of that. Sometimes I think there's other people in the Maori Party who would like us to try to be all things to all people but I'm not like that."

Harawira said the party should be looking further afield than National as a partner, and raised the Greens as an alternative partner.

An incensed party co-leader Tariana Turia broke her silence to slam Harawira for stealing Sharples' thunder.

She said: "How many other political parties have somebody who gives a speech one hour before their own leader, quite deliberately on the same kaupapa [topic]? It is unacceptable and he knows it."

While Sharples did not directly mention Harawira in his speech last night, he did respond to Harawira's objections that the Maori Party had caved in to National on social issues.

"Many people have blamed us, as the Maori Party in a National-led Government, for further entrenching the poverty of our people. This is not the case."

Sharples said poverty remained the biggest issue facing Maori and the rising cost of living and the increase to GST had hurt them.

Prime Minister John Key said if Harawira deliberately set out to upstage Sharples it was a sign of disrespect to his leader.

"I wouldn't be happy if it happened in my caucus, but I think everyone is well and truly aware of the tensions currently at play in the Maori Party."

He said he did not care what Harawira's motivations were.

"I don't listen to a whole lot of what he says these days."

Earlier in the day, Key brushed aside ugly chants as he arrived at Te Tii Marae around 10am.

As the official party approached the whare, Harawira's nephew, Wikatara Popata, burst forward yelling into a loud haler: "[Key] is the enemy. The enemy is amongst us."

Popata was ushered to the side by locals but kept up his cries as Key moved inside, calling for a stop to mining and to "stop stealing our foreshore".

Later Popata said his protest was directed at the Prime Minister but he had also lost faith with Sharples

"He's lost touch with the people," said Popata, 21, from Kaitaia.

Harawira said he was proud of his nephew's protests.

- Herald on Sunday

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