A quiet road outside Hamilton, the Hukanui Marae car park is full of journalists. Hone Harawira, David Clendon, I and a few others are welcomed on by Ngāti Wairere. This is Tame Iti’s mother’s marae so on the first day of freedom he comes here to start his journey home. Tame is in the wharekai with his sons, mokopuna, sister and other whanau and his lawyer. He is looking great, very calm and tranquil but there is something in his eyes, this strange new morning without bars.
After kai the press conference, a sea of cameras in a small whare. Tame sits with his son, Hone Harawira and his lawyer Russel Fairbrother. The kōrero is in Te Reo and English. He speaks of the connections between Waikato and Tuhoe, his whakapapa, the battle at Orakau where Tuhoe came to support Ngāti Maniapoto against the colonial forces. He speaks of the failed justice system today and the jails full of young Māori men. He has had 9 months to read, paint and work.
“Are you angry about what has happened to you?”
“Not at all, turn a new page”
He speaks about the work of Tamati Kruger and the mana motuhake of Tuhoe, the work to for the return of Te Urewera. Looking at him I have memories that go back to the 1990’s when he supported our Greenpeace campaign to clean up the Tarawera River. I remember a day at Lake Waikaremoana when he and other whānau were protesting the pollution of the Lake and DOC accused them of having an illegal chicken in a National Park.
This colourful, dramatic personality is also a man who missed his whānau and his little dog, who loves cycling and getting fit. He was imprisoned for illegal firearms although he threatened no one. His people were watched and then attacked by armed masked police and the apology is yet to be given.
The last media questions are about will he be camping in the bush? This is rather hilarious because Te Urewera is all bush and that is where he lives.
The conference is over as the whānau have to travel home via Rotorua, they have people waiting. The sun is high in the sky as I drive away and the words from Orakau which ring in my ears but very peacefully “Ka whaiwhai tonu mātou, ake ake, ake”.