Free Tame Iti has something to smile about

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 08:50 27/02/2013
Tame Iti
PETER DRURY
SMILING: Tame Iti at Hukanui Marae after his prison release.

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Tame Iti strode out of Waikeria Prison this morning and straight into a Hamilton cafe for a coffee.

Ordering a cappuccino he sat down and enjoyed his first taste of freedom since he was sentenced for a term in jail last May.

"An early morning rise to meet with the whanau in Kihikihi. It feels good to be out ... Now where is my cappuccino?" he tweeted.

It was the first step but significant step in a long journey home to Ruatoki, in the heart of Tuhoe country.

The Tuhoe activist was sentenced to two and a half years jail last May for firearms offences and paroled today after the Parole Board was satisfied he long longer presented an undue risk to the community.

Flanked by his sons, Iti made his way to Hukanui Marae in Gordonton for the kawemate (memorial service) for his mother Te Inuwai who died two years ago.

He will travel to Rotorua where he will meet his Tuhoe whanau at the district court house before returning to Ruatoki.

Iti spent much of his incarceration working on art pieces and improving his fitness. He now has plans to complete a half-ironman distance this year.

"He only just got clothes back today and apparently they are a little bit loose in some areas and a little bit tight in others," his son, Wairere Iti, told the Waikato Times earlier.

"He has been training and wants to do the Iron Maori later on this year. His chest has expanded but his puku has gone down."

When Iti got news of his pending release he tweeted: "It's a good day. They are sending me home. I can't wait to be back with my whanau."

Iti's son said: "He is really excited, obviously, and the last week or so has just been getting prepped for him getting out and seeing what he is going to do.

"It has been a long time but Dad has always been optimistic and I have never once spoken to him when he has been inside where he has felt sorry for himself or felt bitter."

Wairere Iti said the jail term had been a steep learning process for his father and he would take his experiences and apply them to his work in Tuhoe.

"I guess that comes with being a political activist for so many years - over 40 years now - you don't get angry with that kind of stuff," he said.

"You just work out what you are going to do and how you are going to change things.

"There has been so much support for him over the years and with him going inside it has definitely been galvanised."

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- Waikato Times

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