7 Mar 2012

Te Urewera group training for security work, court told

7:58 pm on 7 March 2012

A security expert has told a court he was asked to teach people how to conduct training exercises in Te Urewera National Park so that they could start a personal security company in the Middle East.

Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey are charged with participating in an organised crime group and firearm offences in relation to police raids in the Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Wellington in 2007.

All accused pleaded not guilty when the trial began at the Auckland High Court in February.

Rau Hunt, who is seen in surveillance footage of the camps, was originally facing the same charges as the four accused, but they were dropped last year.

Giving evidence in support of Tame Iti, Mr Hunt told the court on Wednesday he spent four hours training people how to conduct personal security drills.

Mr Hunt said he taught the group how to look for explosives under vehicles and how a VIP convoy operates, because they were planning on launching a security company overseas.

He said he was invited back but turned down the group's offer, saying they did not have the required skills to conduct high-risk security work in places like Iraq.

Under cross-examination, Mr Hunt conceded that it was unusual that some of the group had their faces covered with bandanas or masks.

No evidence against Tame Iti - defence

The lawyer for Tame Iti says the Crown has no evidence to prove that the Maori activist was practising or planning on committing guerilla-style warfare in Te Urewera National Park.

Lawyer Russell Fairbrother opened his case on Wednesday by telling the jury his client is a career activist who wanted to create a revolution that would change the hearts and minds of New Zealanders.

Mr Fairbrother said Mr Iti would not be so stupid as to kill people when his iwi, Tuhoe, was already on the cusp of legally gaining self governance of Te Urewera National Park.

The Crown's allegations are ludicrous, unfounded, unwarranted and irresponsible, he said.