An East Coast man who repeatedly drove over and killed his neighbour after a dispute over a puppy has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 15 years six months.

Selwyn David Cornelius, 51, appeared in the High Court at Gisborne today for sentencing, having earlier pleaded guilty to murdering Mark Paaka, 40, at Tolaga Bay, a coastal township 50km north of Gisborne on the East Coast, on October 31.

The incident happened in front of children and near the home of Mr Paaka's mother.

One of his brothers watched as emergency services staff tried to save his life.


Justice Gilbert said Cornelius committed a "deliberate, sustained attack''.

Cornelius drove directly at Paaka, accelerating as he did so - having declared that he intended to kill him.

"You repeatedly drove over him as he lay defenceless on the ground.''

The matter did not go to trial. Cornelius pleaded guilty at his first court appearance after the killing.

Justice Gilbert accepted submissions from Crown prosecutor Steve Manning that the killing was deliberate, brutal, callous and cruel, and so brought in considerations of a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Mr Manning said the Crown did not accept that such a sentence would be manifestly unjust.

Justice Gilbert gave Cornelius 18 months' discount because of his genuine remorse and an early guilty plea.