Māori veteran: 'They need to get it right'

7:36 am on 27 January 2016

An 88-year-old Māori veteran is refusing to face up to court on trespass charges which would reinstate his pension.

Selwyn Clarke

Selwyn Clarke Photo: Supplied / Kihi Ririnui

Selwyn Clarke's veteran's pension and disability allowance were suspended in November and he has been selling his belongings and begging at the Kaitaia markets to survive.

He was part of an occupation of Kaitaia Airport last September, where he was evicted and arrested for trespassing.

Mr Clarke told RNZ he was grateful for all the help he had received and it was an issue of ownership and sovereignty.

"According to them, Ngāi Takoto and the Crown own the airport, which is wrong, absolutely wrong. They need to get it right," Mr Clarke said.

Work and Income New Zealand's policy for any beneficiary with a pending arrest warrant is for it to be cleared as soon as possible. Payments are affected if the warrant is not cleared within 10 working days.

A Ministry of Social Development spokesperson said Mr Clarke came into the Kaitaia office of Work and Income on 31 December to ask why his payments had been stopped.

"He was advised that he needed to go to the district court to clear the warrant, which he does not appear to have done."

Anahera Herbert-Graves, of Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu, said the kaumatua felt demeaned after having to ask for help but, at the same time, unbowed.

"He's not going to bow to that kind of extortion, which could be solved easily by the Crown dropping its ridiculous charges of trespass. How can you trespassed on your own land?" Ms Herbert-Graves said.

"It's indicative of the vindictiveness of this current government towards anybody who doesn't fall into line with their [treaty] settlement process."

The Ministry of Social Development spokesperson said Mr Clarke was in full control of his situation and knew what he needed to do to resume payments.

"When he clears his warrant, we are happy to help and will resume payments."

Taitokerau MP Kelvin Davis said he hoped to meet with the Māori veteran later this week, and that anyone who had donations for Mr Clarke could drop them off at his electoral office.