Sonny Tau's runanga leadership future looks grim after he admitted lying about whether he had shot five protected wood pigeons.

Tau was caught with the birds in his carry-on luggage at Invercargill Airport last June.

Tau said he shot them but later changed his story and claimed he was protecting his daughter's partner, Douglas James Sadlier, who was the real killer of the birds.

The story was concocted, though, and yesterday Tau appeared in the Southland District Court and admitted perverting the course of justice.


After the plea, acting runanga board chairwoman Carol Dodd said the Board of Trustees for Te Runanga--Iwi O Ngpuhi priority was "to determine Mr Tau's future role with the rnanga, in the best interests of all Ngpuhi. A further statement will be released once the board have made a final decision and notified appropriate parties".

Tau has been on leave from his role as runanga chairman since last October. He had also resigned as chairman of Tuhoronuku, the Ngapuhi group with a controversial mandate to negotiate a Treaty settlement with the Crown.

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

Pita Tipene, co-chairman of Te Kotahitanga, had previously called for Mr Tau to stand down from the chairman position.

Te Kotahitanga have long opposed the Tuhoronuku mandate, saying it lacks support from most Ngapuhi and ignored many concerns that needed to be heard before settlement can proceed.

Mr Tipene said Ngapuhi had moved on from the time when Mr Tau headed Tuhoronuku.

"Sonny Tau began the settlement process but it's time for new leadership," Mr Tipene said. "I think he was already gone and we didn't need a conviction to see that."

Tau had pleaded not guilty to the perversion of justice charge 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. Community detention allows an offender to work but restricts them to their home address during specified curfew periods.

Tau was convicted on the charge and remanded to appear for final sentencing on all three charges on June 16. 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.