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NZ pardons/apologises to Maori activist 100 years later

NZ pardons/apologises to Maori activist 100 years later

New Zealand is about to apologise formally to a Maori man and his family whom the nation mistreated more than a century ago.

The move could be a forerunner for similar “apology” legislation to the Indigenous people of Australia for massacres, mis-jailing and mistreatment over the past 230 years.

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta recently tabled in the NZ Parliament the Te Pire kia Unuhia te Hara kai Runga i a Rua Kēnana, or Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill.

It gives effect to an agreement of 9 September 2017 between the NZ Crown and Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki a Iharaira me Ngā Uri o Maungapōhatu Charitable Trust to provide a statutory pardon for Rua Kēnana (photo).

He was a Maori prophet, faith healer and land rights activist who was himself the son of a founder of a religion. Naturally for those days, the NZ colonial administration came down on him like a ton of bricks, using trumped-up charges.

Clause 6 of the bill gives the historical background. In August 1916, Rua Kēnana was convicted of “moral resistance” to a police attempt to arrest him in February 1916.

The attempted arrest was based on warrants a magistrate had issued in January 1916 committing him to prison after he had been sentenced to jail in May 1915 for selling alcohol without a licence.

Rua spent 18 months inside because of his conviction for morally resisting arrest in February 1916. The police had tried to arrest him over a reactived, suspended sentence imposed in May 1915.

No-one knows why the sentence was reactivated as Rua was not charged with any new offence between the imposition of the suspended sentence in May 1915 and the reactivation of this sentence in January 1916.

“In regard to the Maungapōhatu invasion, the Crown’s treatment of Rua was unreasonable. The convictions caused severe prejudice to his whānau (extended family) and the community, and his whānau have suffered ongoing stigma. It is now appropriate for Rua to be pardoned and for his mana (prestige) and reputation, and that of his uri, to be restored,” the bill states.

In clause 8 of the bill the Crown unreservedly apologises to the descendants of Rua Kēnana and Ngā Toenga o ngā Tamariki a Iharaira for the lasting damage to the character, mana (‘essence’ for want of a better non-Maori word), and reputation of Rua Kēnana, his uri (descendants) and Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki o Iharaira, and the deep hurt, shame, and stigma suffered by them as a result of the invasion of Maungapōhatu…which was the isolated community settlement created in a remote part of the north island’s Bay of Plenty region.


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