Parihaka embraces Urewera pair

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 22/06/2012
Parihaka
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ
WHANAU AND FRIENDS: Te Aroha Ngaia, 11, left, and her grandmother Hilda are pleased Urs Singer and Emily Bailey will serve their sentence of home detention in the Parihaka community.

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The close-knit community of Taranaki's historic Maori settlement of Parihaka has welcomed the news Urs Signer and Emily Bailey will serve their home detention there.

Swiss-born and New Zealand resident Signer and Bailey, half of the Urewera four, were each sentenced to nine months home detention in the High Court in Auckland yesterday.

Bailey and Signer, along with Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, were found guilty of firearms charges after a six-week trial in the High Court in Auckland this year.

Outside the court yesterday Signer said the convictions were a "travesty" and the entire case was "racist".

He said he and Bailey intended to appeals their sentences and convictions.

"The whole case has been racist through and through. From day one this has been an operation to shut down Tuhoe aspirations for mana motuhake. That's what it's been all about, this whole case. Nothing else," he said.

The pair will have to wear ankle bracelets to allow them to be electronically monitored and will have to stay within one house within the large property at Parihaka.

The couple have lived in the Parihaka community for about four years with their two-year-old son.

"They are whanau. They've done a lot for us," Leanne Hohaia said.

"I'm glad that they didn't go to jail because they've got their little boy as well."

Mrs Hohaia said the pair were well thought of within the community with Signer teaching music to children, working in the kitchens and starting a community garden and Bailey making food deliveries to elderly people in the community.

"They help at the garden, they are usually the main ones who are working at the garden. They are into their environmental stuff and sustainability," she said.

Resident Puna Wharehoka said the couple were actively involved in the community.

"They do quite a bit for us," Ms Wharehoka said.

"It would be cool if they were able to venture out among the community but I don't think that they will be able to."

Hilda Ngaia said Signer and Bailey had fitted in very well.

"What ever is going on here, they are here to help," Ms Ngaia said.

Her granddaughter Te Aroha, 11, had had music lessons with Signer.

"He taught us to play the piano and ukulele. It was fun," she said.

Another woman, who would not be named, said Signer's knowledge of science, music, history and other things made him valuable member of the community.

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"He's an awesome asset for the children and what he has brought to the community. Both Urs and Emily are well respected and the children love working with them, they are very patient."

Katrina Casey, general manager Community Probation Services, said a monitoring unit had been installed at the house where Signer and Bailey will serve their sentence.

"An electronic boundary is set around the residence. If either offender breaches the boundary without having approval to do so an alarm goes off at our central monitoring centre and a security guard is sent to check whether a breach has been committed," Ms Casey said.

Police would be called if either of the pair were not at the house when the security guard arrived.

"Offenders serving home detention sentences must stay at their residence unless an absence is approved by their probation officer," she said.

Absences could be approved for a variety of reasons including to seek or attend employment, rehabilitation or education programmes and health appointments.

In May, Iti and Kemara were sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Bailey and Signer were due to be sentenced at the same time, but Justice Rodney Hansen adjourned the proceedings so they could be assessed for home detention.

- Taranaki Daily News

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