Residents 'inwardly bitter' over officers' actions

By Yvonne Tahana, in Taneatua

Tame Iti says he holds former Prime Minister Helen Clark responsible for the impact the Urewera raids have had on Tuhoe. Photo / Alan Gibson
Tame Iti says he holds former Prime Minister Helen Clark responsible for the impact the Urewera raids have had on Tuhoe. Photo / Alan Gibson

Residents of the eastern Bay of Plenty say there is still an "inner bitterness" towards police after the way they were treated during the Urewera raids.

Jack Purewa, brother of activist Tame Iti, remembers being made to kneel for hours with no food or water, and that a pig's head on his stove at home was turned over.

His house was raided as part of Operation 8 but he was not charged with anything.

Yesterday in Taneatua, he said the Independent Police Complaints Authority report made sensible recommendations. But it annoyed him that the Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said two apologies had now been given.

"I can't remember the first time," he said, a reference to the fact that none had been given in the valley.

He said he bore the police no ill will. "We've moved on."

Te Makarini Temara, 56, a lecturer at Te Wananga o Awanuiarangi, was turned back from a roadblock on the day of the raids.

He disputes findings that armed police did not set up at the confiscation line. He said he saw them as he dropped his 7-year-old son off at the Ruatoki kura.

Mr Temara said there was a lingering "inner bitterness" but forgiveness could be found.

Tame Iti, who was convicted of firearms charges and served time, said he held former Prime Minister Helen Clark ultimately responsible for the raids' impact on Tuhoe.

Asked if a healthy iwi-police relationship could be restored, Mr Iti did not hold out much hope.

Speaking at Te Rewarewa Marae in Ruatoki, he said he had never contemplated apologising to his iwi.

"There always been some training camps of that description ... and I have run civil training camps. They were never an attempt to kill or create chaos in our community. That's the basis of the police allegation."


The main points of the IPCA report

Roadblocks and photographing

People were left feeling degraded and intimidated by the actions of police at roadblocks set up at Ruatoki and Taneatua, which the IPCA found were unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable.

"While police were warranted in taking steps to address possible risks to public safety, there was no justification for believing there was a general threat to the people of Ruatoki," the report said.

Sir David Carruthers said the roadblock at Ruatoki and the presence of armed officers were intimidating and police did not assess their likely impact on the community.

Police had no legal status for stopping and searching vehicles or photographing drivers or passengers at road blocks. In total, 66 photographs were taken of drivers and passengers, including children.

Searches and detaining people

The detention of the occupants at five properties of the 41 raided by police was deemed "unlawful and unreasonable".

"While police have the power to restrict the movement of people to prevent a search being interfered with, they cannot lead people to reasonably believe they are being detained. In a number of cases here they did so," the report said.

The personal searches police conducted on a number of occupants were also deemed unlawful.

"No shots were fired by police or others, all arrests occurred without incident and no members of the public were put at risk," Sir David said.

Police operation was justified

Sir David said then-commissioner Howard Broad was justified in ordering the operation. Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said he apologised for mistakes but not for the investigation.

"We don't shy away from the investigation, we absolutely think the right thing was done in terms of the investigation," Mr Marshall said.

"We made mistakes, we went there in good faith and we got it wrong in a few areas in Ruatoki."

He added: "If it hadn't been for Tame Iti and his band of colleagues out there with Molotov cocktails and semi-automatic weapons we would not have gone there."

- additional reporting, APNZ

- NZ Herald

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