19 Jul 2015

Tau's fate within Ngāpuhi depends on court case

12:57 pm on 19 July 2015

A Ngāpuhi elder says the fate of Sonny Tau within the tribe will depend on the outcome of his court case.

Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau

Sonny Tau Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Mr Tau, who is the chairperson of Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngāpuhi, faces charges of possession of a protected species, after being allegedly being found with five kereru last month.

He is due to appear in the Invercargill District Court next Friday.

Waitangi elder Kingi Taurua held a hui yesterday, which he said was aimed at bringing Ngāpuhi together to discuss issues concerning the tribe.

He said elders were concerned they were being excluded from "secret meetings" held by the runanga about Mr Tau.

If it wasn't for the media, some elders wouldn't have known about Mr Tau going to the South Island and apologising to Ngāi Tahu, Mr Taurua said.

"They are going under the guise that what they are doing is Ngāpuhi supported, but it's not - it's not Ngāpuhi supported," Mr Taurua said.

"Ngāpuhi is made of a big tribe, not only 20 or 30 people.

"The [elders] want to participate in a discussion regarding Sonny Tau and the meeting was called to look at how we can actually get together and work together so that all meetings from now and the future can be inclusive."

Mr Taurua said members of the runanga and treaty negotiations authority Tūhoronuku were at the meeting, and supported calls to establish a council of elders at a hui on 7 August.

He said the new council will "hold the mana of our tribal area. Any meeting outsides of those elder meetings is null and void".

The council will then discuss a number of issues, which may include Mr Tau, he said.

But Mr Taurua wouldn't be drawn on whether the council would debate Mr Tau's runanga leadership.

"We can't kick the man in the guts, unless we know what the court outcome is."

He said Mr Tau needed to decide whether he believed he was the right person to lead the runanga - and if he did, he should let the people decide whether he should stay or go.

Mr Tau has already stepped aside as head of Tūhoronuku over the kereru incident, but remains a member of the board.

So far, neither Ngai Tahu nor Ngapuhi Runanga have spoken about the kereru catch, but new information revealed the incident caused deep offence to some members of the southern iwi.

Leaked documents show Ngai Tahu elders are furious that the kereru were taken from their rohe, and gave Mr Tau a dressing-down.


Meanwhile, Hokianga o Nga Hapu Whanau chairman Rudy Taylor, who previously expressed concerns about Tūhoronuku's mandate, has sent a letter to the ministers of Māori affairs, treaty negations and conservation.

In the letter, he reiterated his opposition to the government giving authority to Tūhoronuku, and said they were disappointment that the Crown had taken the process a step further by signing terms of negotiation.

Mr Taylor said there was also concern about Mr Tau remaining a member of the authority.

"To this date, there has been no opportunity provided by Mr Tau to openly address these matters," he said. "The people of Ngāpuhi deserve more from those who would seek to lead and the offending is such that it cannot be ignored by the Crown."

Mr Taylor said while it's still unclear what charges Mr Tau faces, his actions "clearly constitute a theft of animals," which disqualifies him of holding office on a charitable entity.

He sought an "urgent" meeting with the ministers, and said he was being instructed to go back to court if the government "maintains its unwillingness to address the ongoing opposition".

Mr Tau wasn't available to comment.

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