Hinewhare Harawira moons elderly crowd

'CAUSED HAVOC': Hinewhare Harawira (file photo).
'CAUSED HAVOC': Hinewhare Harawira (file photo).

Former anti-violence campaigner Hinewhare Harawira may be removed as a trustee at Waitangi after performing a traditional Maori insult where she bared her buttocks to an elderly crowd.

Harawira, who stepped down in her role as an anti-violence campaigner after three sons were convicted in June and July on assault charges, performed the whakapohane after "suffering abuse" during a tenant's eviction.

She was appointed as a trustee to the Te Tii (Waitangi) B3 Trust on August 25, 2012, however, three other trustees took their attempts to have her removed to the Maori Land Court of New Zealand after the incident.

Trustees Hapeta Rameka, Billie Taituha and Joyce Baker objected to her appointment because of her "despicable behaviour".

Baker said Harawira also "caused havoc" at the hui of the trust.

In a decision released yesterday, Judge David Ambler found that none of the trustees had actually witnessed Harawira performing the whakapohane.

However, one trustee produced a photograph, which was "mercifully taken at a distance", that captured the incident.

Harawira "candidly acknowledged that the photograph was of her, and that she had indeed performed what she described as a whakapohane directed at some of her whanaunga".

She bared her backside after an employment and tenancy dispute with a woman living adjacent to her flat.

The woman had a dispute with the trust and attempted to remove one of the trustees. When her application was unsuccessful, "there was some form of occupation" by her and her supporters.

On the day of the woman's eviction, Harawira said she "was the subject of considerable verbal and other abuse" from the supporters.

"Mrs Harawira's ultimate response to that abuse was the performance of the whakapohane," Judge Ambler said.

Harawira was quick to point out to the court that her whakapohane was "not a brown-eye".

"She says that this was performed as a matter of tikanga Maori, and that those who continue to take offence are ignorant of such matters of tikanga," Judge Ambler said.

The gesture of outrage was infamously performed by Dun Mihaka who objected to a visit by Prince Charles and Diana during a 1993 royal tour.

Harawira acknowledged that the people who saw her backside were offended, but she had spoken to those people and apologised. She also made amends by helping others at Waitangi.

Judge Ambler said he would "have deep reservations" about appointing Harawira as a trustee if she routinely "resorted to whakapohane or other similar gestures in response to abuse or other testing circumstances".

However, he found there was no evidence to suggest that.

Judge Ambler directed that the decision to keep Harawira on as a trustee should be taken to the trust's next general annual general meeting next month.

"It would be disastrous to appoint Ms Harawira if her support has evaporated because of her post-AGM conduct," he said.

Judge Ambler also noted that although Harawira had apologised to individuals, she had not apologised to the community.

The decision to remove Harawira as a trustee has been adjourned until September, after the outcome of the general meeting.