Sonny Tau back at helm of runanga

By Mikaela Collins -
Sonny Tau is back a the helm of the Ngapuhi Runanga.
Sonny Tau is back a the helm of the Ngapuhi Runanga.

After more than a year of paid leave Sonny Tau has returned to his position as chairman of the Ngapuhi runanga despite several calls for him to stand down after hunting kukupa and lying about it.

Raniera (Sonny) Tau had been on leave from his role as chairman of Te Runanga-A-Iwi O Ngapuhi since October 2015 after he was charged with hunting and possessing native wood pigeons.

But that wasn't the only charge the chairman ended up facing. He admitted possessing the birds 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.

Mr Tau was ordered to pay $24,500 and serve 100 hours' community work when he was found guilty of all charges and sentenced on August 11.

After that sentencing the runanga announced it extended Mr Tau's leave for a further six months. But earlier this month he returned to the chairman's seat after a vote of confidence was received by the board, kaumatua and kui, hapu and takiwa for Mr Tau to return to his position.

"There is nothing within law that prevents Raniera from returning to the position of chair[man]," said Tio Taiaki, who spoke on behalf of Mr Tau.

Mr Taiaki said Mr Tau's leave was paid following approval from the board. He said Mr Tau, with board approval had represented Te Runanga-A-Iwi O Ngapuhi on "certain matters of national and Ngapuhi importance".

Mr Tau's remuneration for his roles at the Runanga, according to the 2015 Ngapuhi Annual Report, was $92,500 for the 2015 year.

There have been several calls for Mr Tau to step down from all leadership positions and in September a report was sent to Ngapuhi takiwa members by trustees Mike Kake, Helene Leaf and Te Rau Allen, which said they do not support Mr Tau returning to the chairman's position which was being filled by Carol Dodd.

"As runanga trustees, the issue is no longer about merely shooting kukupa or his other offending. It is a matter of trust and telling the truth. While he continues to be dishonest, we simply cannot trust him, and we cannot and will not support his return to this board as our chair," the report said.

Mr Taiaki said this report and the calls for Mr Tau to stand down were taken into consideration.

"Following a majority 7-2 vote by the board ... Raniera returned to his position as chair," he said.

A representative for the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson said: "The Minister looks forward to the transition group, made up of representatives from Tuhoronuku IMA and Te Kotahitanga, implementing the recommendations in Maranga Mai so Ngapuhi can begin settlement negotiations with the Crown. He has no further comment at this time."

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