A principal who received a Queen's Birthday honour will appear before the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal next week after being caught driving at 169km/h.

Pem Bird, head of Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tawhiuau in Murupara and a former Maori Party president, was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to education and Maori.

He has already been fined and disqualified from driving for six months after being caught driving at 169km/h between Rotorua and Murupara last September.

Now the Complaints Assessment Committee of the Education Council has brought a case against him to the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal, which will hear the case in Wellington on June 13.


"At a certain level of speeding it becomes a criminal offence, so I have to explain that," he told the Herald.

"I've gone from hero to zero."

He could face penalties ranging from censure to cancellation of his teacher's registration.

"There is a process that balances all offences. I would suggest that I'm at one end, and at the other extreme end there are those that offend against pupils, commit sex offences and the like," Bird said.

"I could have just chosen to not appear in person, but I thought it best to go there and appear in person in case they have questions they want to ask me."

The case is set down on the Education Council website for a four-hour hearing with te reo Maori interpretation.

"This committee has a Maori representative on it, that is my peer. I'm entitled to have someone who understands te reo Maori," Bird said.

He said he had accumulated "quite a lot" of speeding offences over the years, but his last offence was four and a half years ago.


"I do a hell of a lot of voluntary work. Sometimes I have three commitments in a day and I dash here and I dash there and I hate being late," he said.

"It's stupid. I had about six different voluntary things that I did, so I have let a couple go so I can take the pressure off myself."

Bird has stood down as Maori Party president, but still co-chairs the national body of iwi-governed schools Nga Kura a Iwi, chairs several marae bodies and is a member of the Bay of Plenty Police iwi advisory group.

He said the latest offence happened when he was "tailgated" by a group of men who appeared to be reacting to the Tino Rangatiratanga flag on his car.

"If you are like me and you drive around with the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, you get two reactions," he said.

"One is thumbs-up. The other one is what happened to me; racism is alive and well on our roads.

"I made the stupid decision to boot him [speed up]. If I was younger, I would have stopped and given him a bloody good hiding."

He said it happened on a fine day with no other traffic around.

"I was a threat to myself, I guess," he said.

The Education Council declined to comment on the case before the hearing.