Urewera raids: Ten years on

by Shannon Haunui-Thompson / 13 October, 2017

Deep In Te Urewera National Park, looking towards East Cape.

Ten years ago, with new anti-terrorism powers under their belt, police swooped on the people of Tūhoe in what has come to be known as the Urewera raids.

They set up two unlawful road blocks in Ruatoki and Taneatua, detained innocent people and searched private property while hunting for people they believed were involved in military-style training camps in Te Urewera Ranges.

Police believed more than 60 people had attended six training camps in 2006 and 2007 and that they had used a range of weapons, including Molotov cocktails, and had been practising ambush and interrogation techniques.

The raids took place in the early hours of Monday morning on 15 October 2007. The Armed Offenders Squad raided homes around the country looking for terrorists - people they claimed wanted to hurt New Zealand politicians and bomb parliament.

But none of the 17 people arrested ended up facing charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act after the Solicitor-General said the evidence was insufficient.

In the end, four people were found guilty in 2012 of illegally possessing firearms. Tame Iti and Rangikaiwhiria Kemara were sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were given home detention.

The effects of the raids still linger for many families, including for Ati Teepa, who was away from his home when it was raided.

"I think there is still lots of unresolved issues around the raids, particularly some of the young children that were caught up in the raids. My brother's young family saw the guys in the masks and the guns, they saw their grandfather and father dragged out of the home early hours of the morning in the dark."

It would have been terrifying, he said.

"I think there are still issues for those young tamariki - and it wasn't just my brother's tamariki, there were children in other homes."

Police have worked hard to restore their relationship with Tūhoe iwi members, especially the tamariki.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush and kaumatua at Te Rewarewa Marae in 2014. Photo / Mani Dunlop.

In 2014, Police Commissioner Mike Bush travelled to the Tūhoe community, and while not prepared to apologise for the investigation itself, he did express regret for the way police acted.

"Especially in respect to searches and detaining people that were unlawful, so we have apologised for that. Also just in the way we actually treated people with disrespect, particularly the innocent people, the young people - the tamariki and mokopuna," he said at the time.

Mr Teepa said he appreciated the police had tried hard to make amends, but his whānau didn't want an apology.

"We didn't want them in the home and we didn't want to meet with them, we didn't want to be part of what I cynically see as a public relations exercise where they were coming to seek forgiveness from Tūhoe.

"I don't know why they had to make such a big song and dance out of something that could've been a private affair," Mr Teepa said.

Tūhoe leader Tamati Kruger said the terrorist allegations were completely unbelievable and a shock for Tūhoe iwi members, with some believing it was a plot to stop the 2013 Tūhoe settlement with the Crown.

"Some Tūhoe people saw this as a body of proof of the anti-Tūhoe stance of the government and the Crown that stretches back to 1850 and there were other Tūhoe people that were severely hurt by the experience," Mr Kruger said.

Tūhoe took it upon themselves to reconcile with police, which Mr Kruger said was an example of mana motuhake (self determination).

"When you can deal with your own issues you have mana motuhake, when you use your own traditions and customs to do that.

"Ten years later that reconciliation is sustainable and reliable, between ourselves and the police."

Tame Iti. Photo / Justine Murray.

Tame Iti served 9 months of his 30 month jail sentence and now wants to put the raids behind him and focus on the future.

"Honestly I don't really want to go back to that and I don't want to justify and have to explain myself.

"Moving on, you let go. It happened."

Since the raids, no one has ever been successfully charged and convicted under the Terrorism Supression Act.


This article was originally published by RNZ.


Green MP Eugenie Sage accused of ministerial interference
88686 2018-03-23 07:28:31Z Politics

Green MP Eugenie Sage accused of ministerial inter…

by Benedict Collins

A Green Party MP has been accused of ministerial interference and sticking her nose into staff matters at an independent authority.

Read more
The summer the power went out in Auckland
88683 2018-03-23 06:31:22Z History

The summer the power went out in Auckland

by Justin Gregory

Friday, February 20th. 5.30pm. The last remaining major cable blows up in Mercury Energy's faces. The 1998 Auckland power crisis has begun.

Read more
Air New Zealand stoush highlights pitfalls for coalition government
88681 2018-03-23 06:11:39Z Politics

Air New Zealand stoush highlights pitfalls for coa…

by Jane Patterson

The face-off between the Minister Shane Jones and Air NZ has given voters a peek into the pitfalls that may lie ahead for the coalition government.

Read more
Johann Hari's search to uncover the real causes of depression
88186 2018-03-23 00:00:00Z Social issues

Johann Hari's search to uncover the real causes of…

by Louise Chunn

Stalked by depression for 20 years, Johann Hari couldn’t find the pharmaceutical relief doctors promised. He began asking why.

Read more
Are antidepressant pills really effective?
88211 2018-03-23 00:00:00Z Psychology

Are antidepressant pills really effective?

by Marc Wilson

Johann Hari is right about some things, but effective depression treatment means casting a wide net.

Read more
Win a double pass to Dancing with Mozart thanks to the Royal New Zealand Ballet!
88313 2018-03-23 00:00:00Z Win

Win a double pass to Dancing with Mozart thanks to…

by The Listener

Great music inspires great dance, as the Royal New Zealand Ballet brings works by choreographic titans Jiří Kylián and George Balanchine to NZ.

Read more
What to see, eat and do at Pasifika Festival 2018
88671 2018-03-22 15:44:53Z Where to go in Auckland

What to see, eat and do at Pasifika Festival 2018

by Vomle Springford

The largest Pacific Island cultural festival in the world takes place this weekend at Western Springs Park.

Read more
On the misguided crusade to make bike helmets optional
88652 2018-03-22 11:18:12Z Social issues

On the misguided crusade to make bike helmets opti…

by The Listener

At a time when other sports, notably rugby, are prioritising head-injury prevention, easing up on bicycle helmets is perverse.

Read more