18 Jul 2015

'Anger' from Ngai Tahu over kereru

10:03 am on 18 July 2015

A series of leaked documents show Ngai Tahu, who has remained silent on the kereru affair, is 'deeply disappointed' with Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau.

Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau

Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Mr Tau, who is the current chairperson of Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngapuhi, faces charges of possession of a protected species, after being found with five kereru on him last month.

So far, neither Ngai Tahu nor Ngapuhi Runanga have spoken about the kereru catch, but new information reveals Mr Tau's actions have caused deep offence to some members of the southern iwi.

Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene said the actions were a violation of all the good work and efforts that are going into trying to conserve a 'taonga species'.

Rino Tirikatene.

Rino Tirikatene. Photo: LABOUR PARTY

Those sentiments were shared in a leaked document sent on behalf of the elders of Ngai Tahu's southern region to Mr Tau last month. It said when Mr Tau was revealed as the alleged offender 'there was quite a lot of anger in the communities'.

The document also states that the birds were likely to be from a specific flock which travels regularly across the Foveaux Strait to Rarotoka and Rakiura.

Kaumatua asked for Mr Tau to return to their marae with those who assisted him in the alleged harvest, for a discussion about what had occured.

The documents showed the elders acknowledged his cooperation with the police investigation but want him to front up to them, and bring those responsible for harvesting the kereru.

Mr Tau is due to appear in the Invercargill District Court next Friday.

In Northland, Te Taitokerau MP Kelvin Davis said he believed Sonny Tau should have apologised to Ngai Tahu, but as an individual, not as a representative of Ngapuhi Runanga. He also wanted absolute clarification from the Ngapuhi Runanga that Mr Tau paid for the trip himself and no iwi money was used.

Radio New Zealand has contacted Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngapuhi numerous times but its spokesperson declined to comment.

Kereru

The New Zealand pigeon is known as kererua in most of the country but as kukupa or kuku in some parts of the North Island, particularly in Northland Photo: SUPPLIED / WCC

The kukupa, or kereru, has a unique cultural and spiritual association with the people of Ngai Tahu. This historical connection is acknowledged in the tribe's 1998 Settlement Act where the kereru is described as a taonga species.

Northland conservationist Kevin Prime, who has spent his lifetime batling to preserve the Kereru, agrees the manu is a taonga.

He said according to tikanga, if bird numbers dropped to an unstainable level then a rahui (ban) would be declared, and no hunting would be permitted untill a sustainable level was reach again.

There have been 56 prosecutions for possession and hunting of protected species since 1987.

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