Sonny Tau to pay $24,500, 100 hours community work for hunting of kereru

Sonny Tau was charged after five frozen kereru wrapped in newspaper were found in his checked in luggage at Invercargill airport on June 16 last year.
Sonny Tau was charged after five frozen kereru wrapped in newspaper were found in his checked in luggage at Invercargill airport on June 16 last year.

A District Court judge has ordered Northland Ngapuhi iwi leader Sonny Tau to pay $24,500 and serve 100 hours community work for shooting protected kereru (wood pigeons) in Southland last year.

Tau was charged after five frozen kereru wrapped in newspaper were found in his checked in luggage at Invercargill airport on June 16 last year.

He admitted possessing them but said his daughter's partner, Douglas James Sadlier, had shot them.

Later, both men admitted concocting that story and were charged with perverting the course of justice. Tau was also charged with killing the birds.

Judge Mark Callaghan gave a detailed sentencing indication in May.

A 15-minute hearing was held in Invercargill today at which Tau and his counsel John Munro appeared via audio/visual link from Auckland.

Judge Callaghan confirmed a fine of $12,000 for shooting the birds and ordered Tau to pay $12,5000 in reparation to the Department of Conservation (Doc) towards the cost of investigating the case. He was also ordered him to undertake 100 hours of community work.

An order was made for the rifle used to be forfeited to the Crown.

For perverting the course of justice Tau was sentenced to three months community detention, to be served at his home near Kaikohe, Northland.

The detention included a daily curfew between 7pm and 7am.

On the possession charge he was convicted and discharged.

Judge Callaghan said kereru were an iconic species and while Tau's offending was serious, it did not fall into the category of hunting a protected species for commercial gain.

Although imprisonment was an available sentencing option, a fine was appropriate in the circumstances, he said.

Mr Munro said Tau had planted trees on his property and developed a kereru awareness presentation for use in the community and in schools to show his remorse.

For Doc, senior solicitor Pene Williams said she "certainly acknowledged'" Tau's ongoing efforts to make amends.

"However, he did put himself in this position by his actions _ first by shooting the birds and then by his attempts to dissemble [conceal] his part.''

- Otago Daily Times

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