Kiwi former screen actor Peter William Kaa has been jailed for the second time this year, this time for a machete attack on a relative.

Health problems and substance abuse were described as having severely affected his life in recent years.

Kaa, 54, was sentenced yesterday in Gisborne District Court to 20 months imprisonment for a three-strikes offence of wounding with intent to injure and wilful damage.

The charges arose out of an incident in March 2015 at Tikitiki, where he was living in an old shed on whanau land.

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Objecting to a family member arriving to cut firewood, Kaa took to the man with a machete, inflicting numerous bodily injuries including two large gashes to his wrist and a finger.

In February, Kaa was sentenced to five months imprisonment after a term of supervision and community work for an unrelated indecent assault was substituted. Kaa had breached that sentence with misconduct towards a probation officer.

He was released on bail almost immediately the new sentence was imposed, having already spent an equivalent time for the breach and the wounding charge arising out of the Tikitiki case.

The court was told yesterday that after a 30-year successful acting, directing and advisory career in numerous New Zealand television and film productions, Kaa's health declined markedly in about 2002.

Struggling with that, he sometimes turned to alcohol and marijuana.

His sentence on the Tikitiki matters was significantly delayed due to the need for in-depth health assessments and a cultural report, the latter particularly important to the sentencing process, Judge Warren Cathcart said.

The cultural report provided valuable insight into Kaa's strict upbringing in a small, isolated rural setting, and the ongoing potential contribution he could still make to the Maori community through his talent and knowledge of te reo and tikanga Maori.

Counsel Vicky Thorpe urged Judge Cathcart not to jail Kaa, saying she questioned his ability to cope with a full-time custodial sentence.

His health had noticeably improved since he was bailed in February - as demonstrated by his demeanour in the court compared to his earlier appearances via AV link from a prison remand unit.

Kaa needed ongoing therapeutic assistance, with which he had already voluntarily engaged, and would be eligible for mental health service assistance if he received a community-based sentence.

Thorpe suggested a sentence starting point of two years, with discounts amounting to 12 months for factors outlined in the reports and Kaa's guilty pleas.

Although it would require a stretch by the court, intensive supervision would best suit Kaa, she said.

But Judge Cathcart said the gravity of the violence was such that prison was the only option.

He agreed with the Crown's submissions the sentence starting point should be three years.

The judge gave discounts of 20 percent for factors outlined in the reports and 5 percent for the guilty plea, which he noted was only entered the morning of trial.

Kaa accepted at that stage he would not be able to argue self-defence.

Summarising the case, Judge Cathcart said that after first threatening the man with a walking stick, Kaa returned to his shed and armed himself with a machete.

He confronted the man again, striking him numerous times about the head, neck and shoulders. It was clear Kaa was the aggressor, the judge said.

To defend himself, the man hit Kaa in the eye with the splitting axe he was using.

Kaa swung the machete several more times, hitting the man further in the armpit and hip.

When the man tried to use his hands to protect his head, Kaa inflicted deep gashes to his wrist and a finger.

Bleeding severely from both hands, the man got into his vehicle to drive off but Kaa smashed the driver-side window.

The man told him to drop the machete and challenged him to a fist fight "like real men".

But Kaa again approached with the machete. The man picked up an iron bar, causing Kaa to drop his weapon.

The man punched Kaa three times in the head, then fled to a medical centre. Staff reported the incident to police.

Kaa claimed the man with the axe was the instigator.

Fearing for his safety in that isolated environment, he could not simply have retreated to his shed or fled the scene, Kaa said.

But Judge Cathcart was not convinced.

The claims undermined the summary of facts to which Kaa pleaded guilty.

Aggravating features of the incident made it serious offending that warranted imprisonment, he said.

Kaa had armed himself with the machete and had repeatedly aimed it at and connected with the man's head.

A pre-sentence probation report assessed Kaa as posing moderate risk of reoffending and high risk of harm to others.

The judge noted that notwithstanding the incident, Kaa still had the support of whanau who recognised and valued his ongoing potential - viewing his offending as a "fall from grace".

He had previous convictions but no history of violence.

• Kaa's involvement in film and television included acting roles in Shortland Street, Chunuk Bair, Mataku, Savage Play, E Tipu E Rea, Te Rua, Away Laughing, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jacksons Wharf, and others.

- Gisborne Herald