12 Jun 2012

Lawyer struck off for forging signatures

10:14 am on 12 June 2012

Gisborne lawyer and former Maori Party candidate Atareta Poananga has been struck off after forging signatures relating to Treaty of Waitangi claims.

Poananga, who has also been a Gisborne District Councillor and Tairawhiti Health Board member, has admitted four charges to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.

In its decision, the tribunal says Poananga forged 20 signatures between 2008 and 2010.

It says she had to be struck off to protect the public and the reputation of the profession.

The tribunal also found she attempted to skew the results of a medical test that was submitted to the tribunal on her state of health.

It acknowledged Poananga felt under extreme pressure to meet the deadline for filing Treaty of Waitangi claims.

Law Society president Jonathan Temm told Morning Report that Poananga did not personally benefit from her actions and thought she was helping clients, but the severe penalty was justified because the offending was serious.

He says it is up to the police to decide whether criminal charges are laid.

Maori Party president Pem Bird says Atareta Poananga was a candidate for the party in 2005 but there has been no contact since.