9 Sep 2015

Tau accused of accessing private data

10:20 am on 9 September 2015

Northland leader Raniera Sonny Tau has been accused of accessing an iwi database to obtain the private information of potential voters.

Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau

Ngāpuhi leader Sonny Tau, who stepped down as chairman of Tūhoronuku in June, withdrew his bid to be elected as a hapū representative but continues to seek re-election as the treaty settlement authority's chairperson. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Documents obtained by Radio New Zealand show a complaint was made to Electionz, the company that facilitated recent hapū elections.

The elections were being held for 69 hapū representatives, who all have a voice on Ngāpuhi's mandated treaty settlement authority, Tūhoronuku.

The complaint was made by Tūhoronuku's acting chairman, Sam Napia.

Mr Tau has previously represented his hapū, Ngai Tāwake.

But, along with Mr Napia, Mr Tau is also contesting the position of chairperson - with voting due to close on Friday.

Mr Napia replaced Mr Tau when he stepped down from the position in June, after being caught with five dead kererū at Invercargill Airport.

He pleaded guilty last month to possessing the birds, but not guilty of killing them.

map with Ngapuhi

Ngāpuhi, which is represented in treaty negotiations by the Tūhoronuku Independent Mandated Authority, is made up of over 100 hapū. Photo: Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand

In the leaked documents obtained by Radio New Zealand, it is alleged Mr Tau accessed Te Rūnanga Ā Iwi O Ngāpuhi's database and extracted information relating to potential voters in the hapū elections.

An email chain appears to show Mr Tau sent an email to Mr Napia by mistake asking for more names from the database. The email appears to have been intended for another person who works at Te Rūnanga Ā Iwi O Ngāpuhi.

A Northland family is named in the email trail, in which Mr Tau asks for a car registration number and a date of birth for a registered member of the rūnanga. He also asks for the man's wife's details and inquires about whether their son is also registered.

When Mr Napia questioned Mr Tau by email, Mr Tau told Mr Napia the people wanted details so they could vote in the hapū elections.

Investigation into complaint

Electionz returning officer Warwick Lampp confirmed he had received a complaint and started an investigation, and that he had spoken to Mr Tau about the allegations.

He said Mr Tau later withdrew his name from the hapū elections, and the investigation was now complete.

Mr Napia confirmed he had made a complaint to the returning officer but would not comment any further.

Radio New Zealand contacted Mr Tau but he did not return calls.

Mr Napia, Mr Tau and one other person have been nominated in the election to select Tūhoronuku's next chairperson.

That person will lead Ngāpuhi through the treaty negotiations process with the Crown and settle the tribe's historic claim as the country's largest iwi.

Te Rūnanga Ā Iwi O Ngāpuhi trustee Mike Kake told Radio New Zealand he was taking the allegations seriously.

He said he believed the allegation was the first of its kind for the iwi, in terms of a database breach, and he had a judicial responsibility around the security of the register.

An urgent conference call was being arranged.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs