18 Sep 2008

Cullen forced to flee from attacking youths

7:26 am on 18 September 2008

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen had to sprint across a paddock and on to a marae in the Far North after the van he was in was attacked by a group of youths.

Dr Cullen was heading to Kareponia marae to sign a land claim agreement with Ngati Kahu on Wednesday.

Ngati Kahu leader Margaret Mutu says the protesters who chased Dr Cullen do not represent the views of the tribe, but they do have a valid grievance - and are entitled to express it.

Dr Mutu says the vast majority of Ngati Kahu support the $14 million deal to regain tribal land on the Karikari peninsula, including Landcorp's Rangiputa station.

Ngati Kahu people occupied a house at the station after Landcorp tried to sell off prime coastal blocks last year. The sale process was cancelled after the tribe protested.

The rest of the land, which has been at the heart of the tribe's claim, will be returned free.

Ngati Kahu argued it only ever leased the land to settlers, a claim confirmed in the Waitangi Tribunal's Muriwhenua report.

Dr Cullen said he had anticipated protest action, saying he had a run-in with the same group of protesters in Kaitaia in December last year.