James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Police commissioner makes landmark apology to Tuhoe

Police commissioner Mike Bush walked on to the marae in Ruatoki to a thunderous haka. Photo / Alan Gibson
Police commissioner Mike Bush walked on to the marae in Ruatoki to a thunderous haka. Photo / Alan Gibson

The police commissioner Mike Bush has apologized to the Tuhoe people for police actions during raids of the Taneatua and Ruatoki communities nearly seven years ago.

Mr Bush said the operation that saw armed police detain a number of people in the small Eastern Bay of Plenty communities on October 15, 2007 and road blocks where the elderly and children were stopped was necessary.

But the way in which police acted caused a loss of mana for the iwi.

"There were a number of things especially in respect of searches..also in the way we treated people with disrespect particularly the innocent, the tamariki, the mokopuna that were involved they should have been treated with absolute respect."

The raids took place almost seven years ago, when armed police stormed properties in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Palmerston North.

The police campaign labelled "Operation 8", took place on the belief that some Tuhoe had collaborated with terrorist training camps in the Urewera ranges.

Asked if previous police commissioners, Howard Broad, who held the top job at the time of the raids and Peter Marshall, who took the job after him, should have apologized, Mr Bush said "the timing wasn't right".

"I know both previous commissioners were very keen to apologise for the actions of police on that day. The timing wasn't right for them but I know that they feel as I do, responsible for the actions of police on that day."

Tuhoe spokesman Tamati Kruger said the apology was well-received and accepted by those present although some of his iwi had declined to take part.

"Generally they're not ready for an apology but they have never complained about the apology at large to the people in the Ruatoki community."

"Everybody has been courageous in confronting this very emotive issue and today we have got to a good place."

Earlier in the day, speakers on the paepae asked why former police commissioner Howard Broad, who was the top man at the police at the time of the raids, was absent from the proceedings.

Mr Broad never said sorry to Tuhoe during his tenure or when he retired in 2011.
He told Radio New Zealand in 2012 he would speak with representatives from Tuhoe if asked, if it helped repair relations between the iwi and police.

According to a police spokeswoman, he now works as a senior public servant.
"Operation 8", took place on the belief that some Tuhoe had collaborated with terrorist training camps in the Urewera ranges.

It resulted in 17 arrests for firearms offences nationwide.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority found the Tuhoe raid was justified but police acted unlawfully detaining occupants at five properties.

The Human Rights Commission received 31 complaints about police actions in the raids, and found innocent people had their human rights contravened when they were illegally searched and detained.

Late last month Mr Bush personally apologised to six Tuhoe families affected by the raids including the family of veteran activist Tame Iti, who served 30 months on firearms offences following the raids.

Mr Bush said the visits were to acknowledge the fear that the people of Tuhoe experienced, the situations they were placed in and the damage that was caused.

Mike Bush's full statement

"I have publicly apologised to the Ruatoki community and the people of Tuhoe for the wrongdoing which occurred during Operation 8 and the damage that resulted to their mana and credibility.

"There were instances during Operation 8 where Police failed to meet the expected standards when carrying out roadblocks in Ruatoki and Taneatua. The situations some community member were place in, the fear that was experiences: and the harm that caused was unacceptable.

"It was important to acknowledge the distress experienced by innocent community members, caught up in the execution of the search warrants, and the impact of subsequent media stigmatisation of Tuhoe as terrorists.

"The relationship between Tuhoe people and Police was also significantly damaged and it is only due to the people of Tuhoe being open and willing to work jointly with Police that my staff and I have been welcomed here today.

"I hope that this day is significant step forward in rebuilding our relationship and returning a sense of safety and trust for this community in all Police.

"We now look to the future and continuing our work at a national and local level to build greater relationships between Police with Tuhoe and Iwi Maori, to ensure that all community across Aotearoa have trust and confidence in the New Zealand Police."

- NZ Herald

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