Senior Kawerau Mongrel Mob member Tahu Kingi's funeral cortège sparked an armed riot between his gang's supporters and Black Power opponents as his body was being taken to Whakatane's crematorium.

As a result six Black Power members are on trial in the High Court at Rotorua before a jury of five men and seven women.

They are: Benjamin Biddle, Stallone Harawira, Whitu Taipeti, Codie Taitapanui,
Te Reneti Tarau and Taumata Tawhai.

With the exception of Taipete they are charged with rioting, participating in an organised criminal group, unlawful possession of a firearm, using a firearm against a law enforcement officer, and discharging a firearm with reckless disregard for the safety of others.

They denied all counts when the trial opened on Monday afternoon.

Taipete has pleaded not guilty to the firearms-related charges, having earlier pleaded guilty to the rioting and criminal group charges.

Opening the Crown's case today prosecutor Richard Jenson painted a picture of a rolling riot in January last year that saw firearms loaded and brandished, shots fired by both gangs, police being shot at, missiles thrown, slogans chanted and taunts exchanged as the cortège of at least 150 vehicles carrying an estimated 300 mourners moved towards the crematorium.


The Whakatane area is considered by Black Power to be in its territory.

The jury was played videos shot by news media, civilian witnesses and a police officer of various stages of the riot as the Mongrel Mob passed through Whakatane's outskirts.

Problems linking it to the court's sound system meant most was inaudible but one man was clearly heard saying "this is unbelievable".

Jenson said tensions between the two gangs began to build when Kingi's body was taken to a Whakatane funeral parlour where a confrontation a few days earlier had been diffused.

On January 17, the day he was to be cremated, Black Power members gathered in various places including the Landing Rd bridge entry to the town where they told police they were going to have a barbecue.

Some Black Power members moved to a service lane off Arawa Rd, hid in bushes and as the cortège began to pass broke cover, hurling rocks and bottles.

In retaliation a Mongrel Mob member fired two shotgun blasts out his vehicle's sun roof.

The prosecutor outlined how the cortège headed to the Arawa-Valley Rds intersection where both gangs congregated, exchanging taunts and ignoring police urgings for calm.

It was the Crown's contention Taipete, armed with a baseball bat, challenged his opponents.


Firearms were produced and loaded with one handed to Taipete who brandished it, pulled the trigger but it malfunctioned.

A shotgun was passed to him which, Jenson claimed, he levelled at the Mongrel Mob and police, firing twice.

A bullet ricocheted off a constable's trousers but no one was injured.

There had been another verbal confrontation further along Valley Rd as the procession moved towards the crematorium.

Jenson indicated there had been guilty pleas to various charges from those involved in the riot.

"This is not a 'whodunnit', it is a case where the Crown has to prove what actions were taken by the defendants that day relating to the charges they face," he told the jury.

In a brief opening statement Biddle's lawyer Nicholas Dutch said like half of Whakatane Biddle had gone to have a look at what was going on.

"That is all he's done."

For Harawira, David Niven said his client's case was not one of identity but that he didn't touch any firearm.

Jonathon Briscoe said all Taipete had been doing with the baseball bat was "posturing" and he hadn't discharged any firearm.

Ron Mansfield contended the only thing Tarau was guilty of was "fluffing his feathers", he too had not been involved with the firearms.

For Tawhai, Gene Tomlinson submitted he was another who had merely been posturing: "The Crown asks you to guess and that is not good enough."

Taitapanui's counsel, Harry Edward, didn't make an opening statement. Taitapanui was excused from the trial today by Justice Graham Lang who told the jury he had personal matters to attend to.

The trial is set down for six weeks.