Man arrested for pou orongo vandalism

By Deborah LaHatte

A 61-year-old Kaitaia man has been arrested on a charge of causing intentional damage of a pou orongo last Friday.

The almost four-metre tall carving was recently erected on a well-known site in the township of Kaitāia to represent unity and peace.

Constable Tui Baker of Kaitaia Police says the incident was reported to Police around 3.15pm that day, when a pou orongo that was erected as a reflection of the community's culture was damaged.

“Following an appeal, Police received valuable information from members of the public and local iwi, which helped in locating the offender."

He is due to appear in the Kaitaia District Court tomorrow.

“Police would like to thank the local community for their cooperation, and for coming forward with information,” Baker said.

“Orongo represents unity and peace, and is this community's taonga, and we are thankful to have apprehended the person responsible for desecrating it.”

'Widespread discussion'

Last week Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi told TeAoMāoriNews  Ōrongo wasa name that commemorated the history of this region of Kaitāia.

"We erected the carving at a place named Moerua. It is named Moerua, to commemorate an ancestor named Toa-Kai. This is the place where he wed two women."

Piripi said they hadn't just erected the pou overnight. They made sure there was widespread discussion on placing the pou at Moerua.

"For over a year we had spoken to the community. We visited this group and that group, this hapū, and this iwi.  If anyone has said that they didn't know about this kaupapa, they need to have their senses checked."

“to celebrate and uplift’

"It is very different what they have done, We have seen Māori attacking Māori, tikanga Māori attacking tikanga Māori, rangatira attacking rangatira. Where the bloody hell is that thinking from?"

Politician Shane Jones, who posted a video on social media highlighting the damage, was livid at the suggestion that some people weren't in agreement that the pou should be erected at Moerua, and that the decision wasn't made under a tikanga Māori concept.

"I'm sad because these cowards have chosen to sully the name of Kaitāia. They have abused this gift meant to be a sign of hospitality and support for the community of Kaitāia."

"The money used to build the carving wasn't about giving one iwi more mana over another. It was done to celebrate and uplift, and to bring together the community of Kaitāia."