National | Operation 8

Native Affairs - Te Urewera Raids - A Decade of Rebuilding

October 15 marks ten years since the terror raids that shocked the nation and shattered the lives of people in Te Urewera.

Ruatoki activist, artist and kaumātua, Tame Iti, was dubbed the ringleader of alleged terrorist training camps and sentenced to two and a half years in jail.

So how does the high profile activist view what happened now?

“I already got rid of what happened 10 years ago.  I don’t want to dwell on that.  I think now after ten years we should be writing poems, writing books about it, do a comedy show about that, so we can laugh about it.”

Despite his desire to move on he says, “We’ll never forget that.”

The 2007 police raids were carried out in different towns across the country in response to claims of a paramilitary training camp in Te Urewera.  17 people were arrested but in the end only four including Tame Iti went to trial, on numerous firearms charges. The Police were forced to apologise after the Independent Police Conduct Authority found the police searches in Tūhoe country were unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable.

A decade on Ngāi Tūhoe has settled with the Crown and were given a police apology in 2014. Chairman of Tūhoe Te Uru Taumatua, Tamati Kruger says the tribe has moved on.

“I don’t see any ghosts hanging around from ten years ago with the terror raids.  I think most Tūhoe are satisfied that we’ve dealt with that.  And that’s been resolved the best that we could with the police.”

As for Tame Iti, he’s forging a relationship with Kiwi Chinese, hoping to bring the dragon and taniwha together in the inner Bay of Plenty region. Just days before the raids anniversary Iti hosted a Kiwi Chinese delegation to Ruatoki and Tāneatua.

“It’s important for us for Tūhoe to go in collaboration on an international level.  And so we bring the people with skills and work in our space.  And I’m keen.  I think they got more to offer than our treaty partner.”

It included Wetex Kang, a Malaysian Chinese businessman who stood for the Māori Party in Botany at the election. Tame Iti and Wetex Kang already have a fledgling bee-keeping business in Ruatoki. Now the focus is on a possible communal housing development in Tūhoe.

The group say their link is ancient whakapapa which binds āaori and the hill tribes of Taiwan, a link they hope will bring prosperity to Tūhoe and the Chinese.