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Tame Iti interview transcript

Published: 11:32AM Sunday September 11, 2011 Source: Q+A

PAUL  Tuhoe leader, Tame Iti, is one of four or the four defendants still awaiting trial. Now, I need to tell you right at the start here that the Supreme Court ruling and the pending trial mean that we're constrained in some of the questions I can ask today. Some topics have to be avoided. Government ministers feel unable to front today for fear of tainting the legal process, but I spoke to Tame Iti just a few minutes ago this morning and began by asking him what he made of the decision to drop charges against the 13 and to keep charges against four.

TAME ITI - Tuhoe activist
Ridiculous. I mean, I'm not too sure exactly the train of line that the Supreme Court came up with that. I mean, they dropped the charges on the other 13.

PAUL Yes, or 12. One died.

MR ITI  He could automatically say... Well, I'm not too sure what the sense of that thought is.

PAUL So you're saying why would you drop the charges against the other 12 and keep the charges on you and three others?

MR ITI  Well, maybe to save their face.

PAUL Uh-huh.

MR ITI Maybe that, uh... No, I'm assuming this. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous right from the beginning.

PAUL Well, see, the police say it wasn't ridiculous. They say they were acting in the interests of public safety. Was there a danger?

MR ITI Not at all. I'd like to say this to every community in this country that there was no such plan at all of any plan of any shape or form of an attack on any community.

PAUL Well, look, I'm sorry, Tame. You were talking politics up in the bush and playing with guns. Now, this is an unpleasant combination.

MR ITI Well, you know, I have been involved with programmes in the Urewera. We're not just talking about the Urewera National Park. The Urewera is a nation. And I have been involved in a programme - a facilitating programme for youth and also for men and over a long period of time.

PAUL Well, so why would they worry about public safety?

MR ITI Oh, I'm not too sure. I guess that we'll find out more about it as time goes by.

PAUL So what were you doing up in the Urewera?

MR ITI Well, that's a matter that I can't really tell you at this stage exactly what that is, but...

PAUL Well, David Collins...

MR ITI I mean, I'm easy. I don't have a history of... Very much my door is open, my phone is open and they can ring me and say, "Mr Iti, we believe that you are blah, blah, blah, blah." But they didn't.

PAUL Well, see, David Collins, the solicitor general who dropped the terrorism charges back in '07, said nevertheless very disturbing activities were going on in the Urewera. What could he mean? Very disturbing activities.

MR ITI Oh, I'm not too sure.

PAUL Well, what were you doing?

MR ITI What were we doing?

PAUL Talking politics and using guns.

MR ITI Well, I... It's no secret what I do. I mean, at the funeral of Sir John Turei, I was there with a firearm, with a shotgun. And there'd been the Prime Minister and Mr Broad himself - the commissioner - that they came to the tangi. And it's a normal practice...

PAUL You mean nobody needed to be frightened.

MR ITI No.

PAUL See, Valerie Morse, one of the former accused, said you were training. Training for what?

MR ITI Well, they... A political consciousness. They... I have been involved in... I guess to bring about some more understanding about the issues around Tuhoe, and since 2000 I have been involved in facilitating Tuhoe to bring their take and their case on to the Waitangi Tribunal.

PAUL Yeah, but the word I hear there, really, or the phrase I really hear there is "political consciousness".

MR ITI Yes.

PAUL And you had the guns.

MR ITI Well, I can't really talk about that at this stage.

PAUL Would it ever be OK to use violence for a cause?

MR ITI No.

PAUL So why have you got the guns?

MR ITI There was no plans of any description of violence to be used in any community, and I understand that they assumed that there was a plan for Tame Iti and others to create havoc in Ruatoki community. Well, why would I do that for?

PAUL Well, that's probably what New Zealanders believe - that you want to push all non-Maori into the sea.

MR ITI Uh,... no. Never have.

PAUL Well, what do you believe? What do you want?

MR ITI What do I believe? I'm a patriotic Tuhoe. I have strong beliefs in the rights of Tuhoe to determine that they have control of Tuhoe.

PAUL I know that Tuhoe never signed the Treaty of Waitangi. I know you're special.

MR ITI Yes.

PAUL But what do you want? Do you want a republic for Tuhoe? Do you want your own laws, your own passports, your own stamps?

MR ITI No, I guess that it's no different to the Irish and the Welsh and the Scottish people.

PAUL Well, see, that leads to no good, doesn't it? That stuff leads to no good.

MR ITI Well, hey, we were invaded in 1860. We were invaded again in 1916. I mean, that action that took place in 2007 was atrocious, and the way my 17-year-old cousin had been taken out of her car, photo taken - well, what do you call that, Paul?

PAUL Yeah. I mean, I was going to ask you what damage to the Tuhoe attitude to the police did that 2007...?

MR ITI Oh, enormous. And I think that it's only a matter of time, and when we I guess at the court case we'll continue, if it ever happens. I understand there's going to be a trial in February next year, if it's ever going to happen.

PAUL Do you want that to be a jury trial?

MR ITI Well, I understand that the Crown are not opposed to that, so it's all good. But I... I mean, it's simply my view that this matter should be... that all charges should be dropped, including the four of us.

PAUL Yeah, but you're up there talking political consciousness and waving guns around, Mr Iti.

MR ITI That's all make-up. Let's leave that matter to the court.

PAUL You were under surveillance. Did you know you were under surveillance?

MR ITI Oh, I think I've been under surveillance for a long time.

PAUL Well, that's another question - do the police pick on you? You seem to be something of a target.

MR ITI Well, they've got to pick on somebody. They have to follow the trend of American imperialism on terrorism, and I guess that Tame Iti or Tuhoe is a good target. Don't you think so?

PAUL It was certainly a spectacular business. It looked like it was...

MR ITI It's a lot of money. That's a hell of a lot of money being spent on it, on the exercise. I mean, if you think of it, the amount of money that has been spent there by the Crown to flex their muscles....

PAUL You know, can I ask you what Pakeha watching this, maybe Asian people watching this want to know - do you want everybody to bugger off from New Zealand who is not Maori?

MR ITI No. There is no such plans at all.

PAUL Should the police apologise for what happened in '07?

MR ITI Totally.

PAUL Do you want the suppression stuff to continue?

MR ITI At the moment, yes. Yeah. I think to have a fair hearing in the court of law, yes.

PAUL I thank you very much for your appearance.

MR ITI And thank you to you.

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