The British tourist who was driving a car that smashed into a power pole, palm trees, then the ātea (the open area in front of the wharenui where visitors are welcomed and issues are debated) at Awanui's Mahimaru Marae on Monday is free to leave the country.

The Northland Age understands that he will fly to Australia on Sunday.

Police confirmed yesterday that the man, believed to be in his 20s, had been warned for careless driving but would not be charged.

Marae spokesman Peter-Lucas Jones said marae whānau were outraged at the damage done, and now at the apparent lack of recourse for compensation.


Police had said that the driver had not been drunk, and had not been injured. They were also satisfied that he had not been using a phone immediately prior to the crash.

He had lost control of the car as he travelled towards Awanui, on his way to Cape Reinga, having driven north from Auckland.

Mr Jones said yesterday that quotes for repairs had yet to be received, but he expected the cost to be in the thousands of dollars. The entrance to the marae, and seating just inside the entrance, had been demolished. Some of the damage was structural, weakening the poles supporting the covered entrance to the wharenui.

The driver had reportedly told police that he had lost control of the car when he veered to avoid a rabbit, but Mr Jones wasn't buying that.

"We see rabbits here in the summer, but not at this time of year," he said.

"The ground around here is very boggy in the winter, so they re-locate."

Local people had not seen rabbits there in months.

The bigger issue arising from the crash, however, was the safety of people at the marae. Te Runanga o Ngāti Kahu, whānau, hapū and the wider community had been fighting for more than 20 years to have the open road speed limit reduced on State Highway 10 in the vicinity of Mahimaru Marae, Karepōnia Marae and the papakāinga surrounding them, and this accident emphasised the need for that.


"Where this driver crashed is the very place where people gather before they are welcomed on to the marae. And it's where children play," Mr Jones said.

"Anyone who had been there when his happened would have been have been killed.

"We will do what we have to do to repair the damage, but the bigger issue is that lives could have been lost, and what is to be done about the speed limit."

There had been at least 50 crashes on that stretch in the last 10 years, while Monday's was the fourth that he knew of over a short distance either side of the marae within a week.