14 Nov 2012

Killer of Maori leader challenged to change life

11:09 pm on 14 November 2012

The man who killed Maori leader Hawea Vercoe has been challenged by a member of the Vercoe family to change his life and recognise his background.

Isaiah Tai, 24, has been granted parole after serving two and a half years for attacking and killing Mr Vercoe outside a Whakatane bar in 2009.

Hawea Vercoe, who was 36, was a school principal and a Bay of Plenty regional councillor.

An uncle of his wrote to Tai in prison offering a wero (challenge) to him to change his life and to make a significant contribution to his taha Maori (Maori background).

The Parole Board heard that Tai has had a major change in attitude and focus.

Since going to jail he's become a leader in kapa haka and has learnt to do a mihi (speech) and a pepeha (tribal introduction).

Tai told the board that he owed it to Mr Vercoe and his family and all his own support people to live a better life and to become fully committed to remaining crime-free and to focus on his Maori heritage.