New Zealand's first court trial involving slavery and human trafficking charges has ended its first week in the High Court in Napier and will resume today.
The trial before Justice Helen Cull and a jury started on Monday last week with horticultural and viticultural contractor Joseph Matamata, also known as Viliamu Samu, pleading not guilty to 13 charges of dealing in slaves and 11 of human trafficking relating to arrangements to bring people firm home-country Samoa to work in New Zealand between late 1994 and April 2019.
The court is expected to hear from all 13 complainants, with an interpreter beside the accused throughout the trial which is expected to last about five weeks.
The first complainant to give evidence said she was 15 when she came to New Zealand for schooling in 1994.
But instead of schooling she found herself being kept at Matamata's home, being forced to do chores and being assaulted by the man, until she could take no more and fled through a window and being taken by a friend to a bus to get out of Hastings.
She said she was found by Matamata, and taken back from Auckland to Hastings, in the back of a vehicle with her hands and wrists tied.
She said that, left in a room at the house, she managed to free herself from the bonds and fled again, meeting a social worker and being able to return to Samoa.