Ngati Awa tell Iti: We support you

By Sonya Bateson

After Tuhoe activist Tame Iti was sentenced to a prison term yesterday, Ngati Awa said they would support the Tuhoe people in any way they could.

A haka broke out  as Iti was given a prison sentence on firearms charges relating to the 2007 Urewera raids.

Iti and fellow accused Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara were found guilty on six firearms charges and both were sentenced in the High Court at Auckland  to two and a half years behind bars.

Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were found to have played a lesser role and were sentenced to nine months' home detention, pending a report from probation on whether their home at Parihaka, Taranaki is suitable. Signer was earlier found guilty of five firearms charges and Bailey was found guilty of six firearms charges.

Before Justice Rodney Hansen finished sentencing the two men, a haka broke out in the public gallery. Iti joined in with the haka and was forcefully removed from the dock by prison security.

After the sentencing, Iti's Facebook page was inundated with posts describing  his sentence as unjust and offering him support.

Ngati Awa deputy chairman Pouroto Ngaropo, speaking on be half of the iwi, said Ngati Awa felt for Iti, his children, his grandchildren, his family and the whole Tuhoe nation.

"We would like to let the Tuhoe nation know that Ngati Awa is in full support of Tame and his family, and if there is any way we can be in support, we will be there.''

Mr Ngaropo said he had known Iti for 23 years and  had always found him  to be respectful in all his dealings with the neighbouring tribe.

"Tame has always been a diplomat in his engagement with Ngati Awa, he has always shown no disrespect on the marae or any other settings, and held himself with integrity.''


He said Iti would always be against anything he believed would prevent him from being Maori and would stand up for what he believed in, but did not have anything against Pakeha.

Maori Party MP for Waiariki, Te Ururoa Flavell said he was shocked at the sentences.

"I cannot believe that after such a long and drawn out process, the stress and pain inflicted  ...  has only been exacerbated by the fact that two of the four will be spending a further two or so years in prison, away from whanau, and away from  commitments to their communities.''

Mr Flavell said last week he and Iti had discussed pursuing an inquiry and Mr Flavell said he intended to do that.

Outside court, Iti's lawyer Russell Fairbrother and Kemara's lawyer Jeremy Bioletti said appeals would be filed and that was supported by Mr Flavell.

"Not only do I encourage an appeal, but I'd also like to encourage the public to compare the sentences to those with similar charges and make their own judgment.''

Although police would not apologise for the investigation into the Urewera raids, Police Commissioner Peter Marshall apologised to the Ruatoki community for the impact of the raids.

Mr Marshall said when information came to light about serious criminal activity in the Urewera forest, the police did their job by bringing it to a close.

"We were placed in an unenviable position by a group of individuals, including the four who were sentenced  ...  whose activities were causing grave concern. We had no option but to act in the interests of public safety.

"However, I'm very sorry that innocent individuals, families and a community were frightened and inconvenienced when search warrants were executed in October 2007  ...  I very much regret the fear experienced by the innocent people in the Ruatoki Valley _ especially the children _ and I say sorry to them.''


- Rotorua Daily Post

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