Apology for 'loss of mana' accepted
The former police commissioner Howard Broad was called out but it was left to his successor Mike Bush to deliver a long awaited apology for the so-called Urewera terror raids.
Tuhoe vented their anger as Bush and more than 40 uniformed police officers were welcomed on to Te Rewarewa Marae in Ruatoki for the historic apology yesterday.
After the powhiri, Bush issued the apology which took place behind closed doors where Tuhoe heard the harm caused during the raids was unacceptable.
"I apologised for the police conduct for what we now know as Operation 8 for the hurt, for the loss of mana that we caused," said Bush.
Police failed to meet expected standards when carrying out roadblocks and the raids had damaged the relationship with Tuhoe. They have agreed on a confidential settlement.
He said some of the police actions, including search and detainment were unlawful during the execution of warrants but maintained that the operation was justified.
"The operation that was conducted was necessary and that's been played out through courts.
"It was the way we completed that operation, the way we dealt with, particularly the innocent people that should have been dealt with absolute respect."
The raids took place in October 2007 when more than 300 police searched properties in Auckland, Wellington, Palmerston North, Hamilton and the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
Armed offenders squad members moved into the tiny Bay of Plenty settlement to find people involved in guerrilla-style camps in the Urewera Ranges but left a community devastated.
"Just in the way that we have treated people with disrespect. Particularly the innocent people, the young people, the tamariki and mokopuna that were involved should have been treated with absolute respect and I have apologised because that did not occur."
Former commissioner Howard Broad and former prime minister Helen Clark were criticised during the powhiri for their part in the raids and for not being a part of the police apology.
They said Broad made the call which led to the unlawful search and detainment of people in the Ruatoki community and should have been made accountable.
Bush was promoted to the top job in April and said it was his responsibility to issue the apology on behalf of the police
"I, as the commissioner today, take full accountability and responsibility and it's also about looking forward.
"I am standing here because I have a responsibility to make sure this never [happens] again."
Tuhoe spokesman Tamati Kruger said the apology was accepted by those in the whare but many families were not ready to let it go.
"The majority of the families of the homes have accepted the apology. There would be a few that have declined to be a part of that.
"They too have moved on, it's just that the apology is not the main part of it for them."
Kaumatua said the raids were etched in the minds of the young people in the Ruatoki Valley and Kruger said the apology was a good place to make steps in the right direction.
Veteran activist and Tuhoe community worker Tame Iti was convicted on firearms charges after the raids but said there was too much at stake to hold onto it.
"We've got to let it go because we've got a huge future ahead of us," he said.
"You hold on to pain, emotional stuff that's stuck down in the bottom of your puku and you can't carry that for a long time."
- Waikato Times