30 Jun 2015

Call for Sonny Tau to step down from other roles

7:21 pm on 30 June 2015

Two Māori MPs with iwi affiliations to Ngāpuhi want Sonny Tau - the former chairman of Tūhoronuku - to step down from other leadership roles while an investigation is underway.

Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau

Sonny Tau today stepped aside from his role as chairman of the board leading his iwi's treaty negotiations. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The demotion happened after Mr Tau was found with dead kererū (native wood pigeons), reportedly under his jacket, as he was about to leave Invercargill.

Labour Party MP, Kelvin Davis.

Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Tūhoronuku said in a statement that Mr Tau would remain on its board but Sam Napia, who was the deputy chairperson, would now be its "acting chair".

The authority said that it was up to the board to decide whether Mr Tau would be reinstated as its chairman at a later date, but would not say whether it would apologise to Ngāi Tahu for the pigeons that Mr Tau is accused of smuggling from their tribal district.

The Labour MP for Te Tai Tokerau, Kelvin Davis, who is affiliated with Ngāpuhi, said Mr Tau had done the right thing by stepping down.

"Āe, e tika ana māna hei heke iho i tana tūranga, i te mea, e whakamā ana ia i ā Ngāpuhi whānui i tēnei āhuatanga nōna. Nā reira e tika ana māna hei heke iho i tēnei tūranga me ōna tūranga ake hoki," he said.

Translated: "That was the right thing for him [Sonny Tau] to do, to step down from his position because he has shamed Ngāpuhi because of what he did. Mr Tau should step down from his other positions as well."

Mr Davis said Mr Tau needed to stand down from his other positions while the investigation by the Department of Conservation was under way.

He said he should apologise to Ngāi Tahu and also to Ngāpuhi, as many people in the tribe were embarrassed by his actions.


Kereru (native wood pigeon) Photo: SUPPLIED / WCC

Ngāi Tahu's Waihopai Rūnaka chair, Michael Skerrett, had told Te Manu Korihi the iwi were angry to learn about the incident and wanted a public apology at the very least.

Mr Davis said it was time for Mr Tau to make amends.

"That's a sign of a true leader when you can front up, you realise you stuffed up and you go and fix the mistake," he said.

"I think the first point that needs to be fixed is the relationship between himself and Ngāi Tahu, who he's obviously offended."

Mr Davis said he hoped the leader could learn from his mistake.

"He's only going to learn from this mistake, and it's also a lesson to all of that, regardless of the positions that we hold in our communities and our societies, we're not above the law."

Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare, who is also a Ngāpuhi descendant, agreed that as a rangatira, or leader, Mr Tau should not be given special treatment.

Labour MP Peeni Henare during caucas run April 2015.

Labour MP Peeni Henare Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

"There's two pathways being trod here and I think they'll lead to the same outcome anyway. Tikanga on one side, and the police or the investigators must follow a due process, and, to be fair, it just goes to show whether you are a rangatira or not, the laws apply to everybody."

Mr Henare said Mr Tau should now stand down from all responsibilities, including his role as deputy chair of Te Ohu Kaimoana.

"It's about mana and integrity. If indeed he is representing the interests of Ngāpuhi, then it's only fitting that as a Ngāpuhi representative on the Iwi Leaders Forum, [on] Te Ohu Kaimoana, and others, he should consider stepping down from those as well until the investigation has been completed."

Mr Henare said Ngāpuhi have an obligation to now sort out their relationship with Ngāi Tahu.

"There's bridges to be mended with Ngāi Tahu, with the people of the South Island, between Ngāpuhi and Ngāi Tahu, I think there's merit in having a hui and having some discussion about this particular incident."

Mr Henare said it was important that there were discussions around the tīkanga, or customs, that have been breached by Mr Tau.

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