Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau has admitted concocting a story with his daughter's partner about who shot five protected wood pigeons (kereru) in Southland last year.

In June, five frozen kereru wrapped in newspaper were found in Tau's checked-in luggage at Invercargill airport. He initially said he killed them, but later his daughter's partner, Douglas James Sadlier, said he had shot them and given them to Tau.

After Department of Conservation (DoC) and police inquiries, both men were charged with perverting the course of justice.

Tau pleaded not guilty, but after a sentencing indication hearing before Judge Mark Callaghan in the Invercargill District Court yesterday, he changed his plea to guilty.


Tau had already admitted hunting and possessing the kereru.

Judge Callaghan indicated Tau would be fined $12,000 on all charges, ordered to pay $12,500 in costs to DoC, sentenced to three months' community detention and ordered to undertake 100 hours of community work.

Tau was convicted on the obstruction charge and remanded to appear for final sentencing on all three charges on June 16 -- one year to the day after the birds were discovered. Sentencing will be via audio visual link from Auckland District Court.

Judge Callaghan said Tau changed his story not long after he was initially interviewed and charged.

He told DoC Sadlier had shot the birds near Otautau but he (Tau) had accepted responsibility to protect his daughter, Sadlier and their children.

In November, Sadlier was convicted of obstructing the course of justice by agreeing to make a false statement and was ordered to pay a $1000 emotional harm payment to DoC.

After yesterday's hearing, Tau apologised for killing the birds and said his goal now was to contribute back to the community.