4 Jul 2015

Disappointment at charges against Sonny Tau

11:01 am on 4 July 2015

Two Ngāpuhi-affiliated MPs have renewed their calls for Sonny Tau to step down from all of his leadership roles while he faces charges of hunting and possessing kererū.

Labour Party MP, Kelvin Davis.

Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The charges against Mr Tau, 61, were laid by the Department of Conservation today in the Invercargill District Court.

Ngapuhi leader Sonny Tau

Sonny Tau Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Mr Tau was found with five dead kererū (native wood pigeon) in his possession at Invercargill Airport last month.

The maximum penalties for the unlawful killing or taking of protected species are a fine of $100,000 or two years' imprisonment.

Mr Tau stepped down earlier this week from his position as chairman of the board of Tūhoronuku, which is leading his iwi's treaty negotiations, due to the investigation.

Labour MP Kelvin Davis said the board needed to hold fresh elections to see if the iwi still wanted him as their leader.

Mr Davis said the right thing to do now is for Mr Tau to step down from his other roles.

"Even aside from the charges being laid, it would just be the honourable thing for him to step down and for him to re-test his mandate," he said.

"And if Ngāpuhi were to re-elect him then Ngāpuhi has spoken and if they weren't to elect him then, again, Ngāpuhi has spoken."

Mr Davis said it was now a waiting game to see what the outcome would be now that charges have been laid.

The Labour MP for Tāmaki Makaurau, Peeni Henare, said he was not surprised by the charges, as the law must be applied equally to everyone and in particular to leaders such as Mr Tau.

Mr Henare said it gave more weight to the challenges for Mr Tau to step aside.

"Let's let the legal process go forward. But what this does do, is it does question his integrity and also his morals, moving forward in the leadership of Ngāpuhi.

"[He] should give serious consideration to standing down."

But Ngati Hine chairman Waihoroi Shortland said it would be virtually impossible to unseat Mr Tau from even the board negotiating the iwi's treaty settlement .

While Mr Tau stepped down as chair of Tūhoronuku, Mr Shortland said that was an empty gesture - because Mr Tau remained on the board, and in control in all but name.

He said the way the mandated authority was set up, its members could not remove him even if they wanted to.

"Nobody according to this system can remove Sonny from Tuhoronuku except his hapū."

Mr Shortland said that rule was a sore point with his people, because they could not remove so-called Ngati Hine representatives who did not have broad Ngati Hine support.

Meanwhile, a leader of Te Kotahitanga o Ngā Hapū Ngāpuhi said Mr Tau had no choice but to step down from all of his responsibilities now that charges have been laid against him.

Rudy Taylor said said it was important that Mr Tau fronted up to the courts.