Tūhoe still carry emotional impact of raids

10:28 am on 15 October 2017

A decade on, the Urewera raids have had a lasting impact on the people of Tūhoe, the son of an activist says.

Wairere Iti

Wairere Iti Photo: Supplied

Today marks 10 years since police swooped on Ruatoki and Taneatua, setting up unlawful road blocks, detaining innocent people and searching private property while looking for people they believed were involved in military-style training camps in Te Urewera Ranges.

None of the 17 people arrested ended up facing charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act, although four were found guilty in 2012 of illegally possessing firearms.

Activist Tame Iti was one of two who spent time in prison.

His son Wairere Iti, told Sunday Morning he remembers feeling fortunate he or his family were not home when the police stormed their house.

"I remember a day of confusion and not understanding was going on and why people were going through my house and my gear, and then [later] sitting down and basically being interrogated by police and listening to them say things I knew to be completely untrue."

The raids have had a lasting impact, he said.

"Every person deals with these types of things differently, so I don't know if it impacts practically on people anymore, but there's definitely that emotional impact which people carry and deal with in their own way.

"I have cousins who are still dealing with the financial impact of going through the trials but not actually being charged, and they're still paying that off today."

The raids served as a reminder that people in power can abuse it, Mr Iti said.

"What matters 10 years on for us is that - and we're seeing it with what's happening in America with Trump - that it is possible for the people in power to use that power in a way that is not good for the people, in a way that doesn't care for the people.

"This is true not just with what happened [in the raids] to Māori, but it can relate to everyone."

For Tūhoe, the raids were a continuation of history.

"We look at history and we go, 'We can't believe that happened back then' - it can still happen today."

The police, media and wider public were all captured at the time by the narrative of home-grown terrorism, he said.

"They loved the idea that this was something going on.

"They wanted something fantastic and a story to tell - and it wasn't there."

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