James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Tame Iti released early on parole

Tame Iti enjoys a cappuccino on his first day after being released from prison. Photo / Twitter
Tame Iti enjoys a cappuccino on his first day after being released from prison. Photo / Twitter

Veteran Maori rights activist Tame Iti says he holds no animosity towards the Crown for his stay in prison.

Iti was released on parole about 5.30am today having served nine months of a two and a half year prison sentence.

He was found guilty during a trial last year of six firearms charges and not guilty of four, stemming from a police raid in the Urewera Ranges in 2007 that led to the arrest of 18 Tuhoe activists.

Iti, who appeared jovial and fit-looking, was welcomed on to Hukanui marae this morning, on the outskirts of Hamilton, where he took his mother Te Inuwai Iti's kawe mate as part of the tangi process.

He told a press conference he was looking forward to visiting relatives in Rotorua this afternoon before returning to his home in Ruatoki for a feed of mutton birds and where his parole conditions state he must live.

Asked if he held any resentment for his incarceration, Iti replied: "Not at all".

"You just move on ... kaore oku raruraru (I don't have any problems with it)."

Iti said he was saddened by the number of young Maori men he met while in jail and he plans to work more with the Department of Corrections to aid inmates.

He spent time working in the prison's garage earning 20 cents an hour before moving to a prison farm where his pay doubled to 40 cents an hour.

Iti was also looking forward to writing a book about being a political prisoner and training for the Iron Maori event that will take place in the Hawkes Bay later this year.

Iti's lawyer Russell Fairbrother said he had applied for leave to appeal to The Supreme Court.

"The Crown has responded and the court is now considering whether to grant leave."

"There are two considerations; one is a point of law and public interest - we think we cover both bases."

Iti's son, Wairere Iti, told Newstalk ZB this morning said the process including his father's incarceration and trial had been six years in the making.

"There's still the Supreme Court and that kind of thing, and it has at times been quite trying - the sentencing particularly."

The Parole Board decision said Iti had shown leadership qualities in prison, and was described as a role model prisoner.

"Iti spent his time in prison working with other inmates. He was in the Maori focus unit there, so ... he was able to contribute to that kind of stuff really easily, obviously, and be a good influence to some of the inmates," Wairere Iti said.

Iti's co-offender, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, will also be released next week.

Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were also found guilty of firearms charges and were sentenced to nine months' home detention at their home in Parihaka, Taranaki.

Earlier, a photo was posted on Twitter of Iti enjoying a cappuccino, with the caption: "An early rise this morning to meet with my whanau in kihikihi. It feels good to be out ... Now where is my cappuccino."

- APNZ

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