Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Harawira to seek cash from MPs

Hone Harawira. Photo / APN
Hone Harawira. Photo / APN

Hone Harawira plans to ask fellow MPs to help pay his $500 fine after he was found guilty of not complying with a police instruction at an Auckland housing protest.

The Mana Party leader was arrested last October when he joined protesters fighting the removal of state houses in Glen Innes.

He locked himself in his car and turned his music up loud, blocking a Housing New Zealand-contracted truck and trailer unit from leaving with one of the homes.

Police told him several times to move but he refused and they eventually smashed a window and arrested him.

Harawira denied the charge but, after a three day hearing in Auckland District Court, was found guilty yesterday, fined $500 and ordered to pay $132 court costs.

Judge Thorburn entered a conviction for the offence which, under the Land Transport Act, is punishable by a maximum $10,000 fine.

Harawira will not have to give up his seat in Parliament because the Electoral Act says an MP must only resign if he or she is convicted of an offence with a sentence of two years or more in jail.

An unrepentant Harawira told Radio New Zealand this morning the fine and his conviction were a "bargain" given the attention the court case gave to the plight of the affected Glen Innes tenants.

"I've always used the courts as a political platform and if they're going to go to the trouble of taking me to court I will use it as often as I can and as publicly as I can to promote the issues that are important to the citizens of this country," he said.

"I tell you what I am going to do. I'm going to write to all of my fellow MPs and I'm going to invite them to help me pay off the fine because if they're not prepared to get out on the street the least they can do is help me pay the bill."

He he did not regret his actions that night.

"I think in life, the important thing is that people choose to do the right thing, not always necessarily what is legal. Because often people are forced to make decisions based on what they believe to be the right thing to do."

The Te Tai Tokerau MP called 12 witnesses during the hearing, prompting Judge Thorburn to try to prevent him prolonging what should have been a straightforward matter.

Delivering his decision, Judge Thorburn said much of their evidence could be categorised as irrelevant and in standard legal proceedings would not have been permissible. However, he acknowledged the depth of feeling that the people of Glen Innes had about the issue.

"It is right sometimes in the District Court, which is proclaimed as the people's court, that there is a relaxation of the protocols so that people's voices can be heard."

He compared the conflict between the affected Glen Innes residents and the developers moving in to being "like tectonic plates rubbing together''.

During the hearing, dozens of Harawira's supporters turned up to the court, waiving Mana Party flags and holding banners with slogans in support of the affected Glen Innes residents.

- NZ Herald

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