20 Jul 2020

Police not pressing charges after Māori woman alleges racial abuse at Ōwairaka / Mount Albert

5:43 pm on 20 July 2020

A decision by police not to press charges after a Māori woman was allegedly racially abused and physically assaulted at Ōwairaka / Mount Albert, has been described as racist and will be legally challenged.

Ngahina Hohaia.

Ngahina Hohaia. Photo: Supplied by Ngahina Hohaia

Ngahina Hohaia in June said she was verbally and physically attacked when she asked the owner of a dog if she could put her animal on a leash.

Ōwairaka / Mount Albert is at the centre of heated protests over the felling of 345 exotic trees to make way for native plants.

AUT law lecturer Khylee Quince is appealing to the Solicitor-General this week on behalf of Hohaia, after she was advised by police that they would not be pressing assault charges because the alleged perpetrator had a plausible explanation of self-defence.

Quince said this should have been tested in court, and not left up to police to decide.

Khylee Quince

Associate professor Khylee Quince. Photo: supplied

"This decision is racist and is not accepted by Ngahina and by leaders within the wider Māori community. The New Zealand Police have a history of poor responses to hate crimes perpetrated by Pākehā against Māori and other ethnic communities," Quince said.

"The police have failed to acknowledge and understand the significance of this as a racially motivated attack on Ngahina as a wahine Māori wearing moko kanohi and as a Māori citizen accessing Ōwairaka maunga as a place of spiritual sustenance."

Quince said police deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha was contacted to oversee the case, and iwi liaison officers called in to assist Ngahina Hohaia with giving a statement, after she found the officer who originally conducted the interview with her to be unable and unwilling to address or understand Māori cultural issues.

Quince said that despite this there were no Māori present when the decision not to prosecute was made.

"We think police failed to consider the seriousness of this as a racially motivated hate crime," she said.

In a statement, Auckland City West Area Commander Grant Tetzlaff said police conducted extensive inquiries into matter, including speaking with witnesses in the area and examining CCTV footage.

"Police will be considering all available evidence against the Solicitor General's Prosecution Guidelines before making a decision on how to proceed," he said.