Warning on people using tribal land

Long-time Lake Horowhenua activist Philip Taueki has used the last moments of his assault trial to send a warning: He will do whatever is necessary to keep people off tribal land.

Taueki has been on trial in the Levin District Court this week, charged with assaulting Horowhenua Rowing Club member James Watson during an altercation at Lake Horowhenua in February last year.

Watson alleges that Taueki hit him in the thigh with a rock, which was thrown at him while he exited the lake.

The alleged assault took place due to arguments over where rowing club members could leave the lake.

They had agreed to leave south of a boundary peg, which showed where domain land stopped and tribal land began, but Taueki said they had tried to leave the water on what he regularly called "my land".

During the trial's closing arguments yesterday, Taueki - who represented himself - was prevented from reading much of his prepared material.

Prosecuting Sergeant Mike Toon objected on the grounds that much of it was evidence as opposed to arguing points of law. Judge Brian Hastings agreed.

After the judge took Taueki through his submission piece by piece, he asked the defendant if he had anything else to say. Taueki then told the court about how his descendant had signed the Treaty of Waitangi on behalf of his tribe Muaupoko, that the rowing club had been built on Maori land without permission, and that the area around Lake Horowhenua was sacred because his ancestors had been killed there in battles.

People had urinated on sacred sites there, and rowing club members had ignored him when he tried to keep them off tribal land, he said.

"I have to do whatever is necessary to stop the desecration of the most sacred land our tribe still possesses.

"I will never accept that the rowers have a right to exit [the lake from outside] that boundary."

Taueki said any action on his part was either self defence or essential to keep them off tribal land.

Watson had walked towards him aggressively while holding his boat and long oars, which Taueki said he thought would be used as weapons.

He was also able to keep people off tribal land, and had only thrown rocks towards Watson as "warning shots".

Toon said neither defence could apply.

If Taueki was worried about his wellbeing, he could have left before the rowers got to shore.

While Taueki may have been an owner of the land, the force he used was excessive, Toon said.

The judge reserved his decision, saying it should be released within the next month.

Manawatu Standard