Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Iti: 'It was in my backyard, not deep in the Ureweras'

Tame Iti talks with media outside the High Court in Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
Tame Iti talks with media outside the High Court in Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker

Tame Iti says he and others accused of taking part in military-style training camps in the Urewera Ranges never had a plan and that the police and Crown "created this madness".

The Tuhoe leader and three others - Emily Bailey, Urs Signer and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara - were last week granted freedom when a High Court jury in Auckland failed to reach a verdict on a charge of belonging to an organised criminal group, after a trial believed to have been the most expensive in New Zealand's history.

However, they were all found guilty of several firearms charges but not guilty of others.

Speaking on TVNZ's Marae Investigates programme this morning, Iti said he was guilty of nothing.

"I know the truth, that's all I have to remind myself. The truth is that I did not have a plan - We did not have a plan ... to create havoc and to undermine our community, or a plan to kill or to kidnap.

We did not have a plan."

Iti said footage of several people apparently engaged in military training played during the trial showed activities that had never meant to be secret.

"If the spies were smart enough they could have ... come and had a chat with me about it," he said.

Iti said he grew up playing cowboys and Indians in his hometown of Ruatoki using shotguns with the pellets taken out.

"It's dumb, dumb charges. It was in my backyard, not deep in the Ureweras. Where did they get that?"

Police and the Crown had manufactured the case against him and his co-accused, he said.

"That's really scary stuff for me. For the police to create that picture. The Crown is good at that: they do the plot, they created the plot - they created this madness. They spied on us - my house (was) bugged, my phone's bugged."

Iti said he did not blame himself for the harm the 2007 police raids had had on the Tuhoe community.

"No, the Crown is responsible for that. They created that."

Meanwhile, former police minister Annette King told TVNZ's Q + A programme that she had been advised by Solicitor-General David Collins that the police were right to proceed with the raids under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

She was "disappointed" upon learning that this advice was incorrect.

"We had relied on the advice that we were given that everything that was being done was being done correctly and so to then find that in fact the law ... was incoherent and they weren't able to proceed, and much of the evidence they had gathered was not able to be used, now that was a big disappointment."

Ms King said she had no idea police would use the tactics they did when carrying out "Operation 8".

"I think like many New Zealanders I was very surprised at the actions, particularly around children, around older people. I had no idea that that was going to be the way an operation was mounted.

"I think many of the cabinet, probably most of the cabinet and the caucus, was dismayed at the way people were upset in that community that had nothing to do with anything that had been going on in the area.

"The regrettable thing is that so many people were frightened by the operation," Ms King said.

Seventeen people were arrested on October 15, 2007, and 16 were charged with firearms offences. An 18th person was later charged but in the ensuing years of legal wrangling, charges against all but four were dropped.

- APNZ

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