May 12, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Te Arawa urged to hold police to account

4 min read

Te Arawa is being asked to put pressure on the Rotorua police, following claims that they ignored a 20-year-old Te Arawa womans plea for help while she sat in a cell for seven days haemorrhaging in pain from a miscarriage.

Whanau spokesperson Renee Kiriona-Ritete (Ngati Rangiteaorere, Ngati Uenukukopako, Ngati Te Roro o Te Rangi) told that the complaint was now being investigated by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

The investigation could take a while but in the meantime I have asked Te Arawa Lakes Trust for information on the current status of a memorandum of understanding signed between our iwi, other iwi in the Bay of Plenty and the Rotorua police in 1999.

Renee said she recalled attending the signing of the MoU as a reporter for Pikiao Panui at the time and that it was a very moving event because it was seen by Maori in the Bay of Plenty as a proactive step toward:

  • Building a better relationship between iwi and the police
  • Ensuring better treatment of Maori people, particularly Maori youth, by the police
  • Reducing crime
  • Reducing imprisonment
  • Increasing the use of restorative justice (where appropriate)

If the MoU still stands, and I hope it does, it appears to have gathered a lot of dust. The time has come for it to be given much more than mere lip service.

Renee said she did not believe that her relatives situation was an isolated one as there were other cases, which she found during a five minute search on the internet, involving Maori in the region that also worried her.

Those cases included:


  • 20-year-old Te Arawa female haemorrhages for seven days while in custody in a Rotorua police cell, despite police having a letter from her GP saying she had a miscarriage and needs to be taken to hospital urgently and despite constant pleas from her whanau for the police to escort her to the hospital. IPCA is investigating this.
  • 25 and 21 year old Ngati Raukawa males are killed in a police chase just outside of Rotorua. IPCA is investigating this.


  • 33-year-old Maori (iwi not known but he was buried at an urupa in Tai Tokerau) male (Athony McGuire) hangs and kills himself while in a Rotorua police cell. He leaves behind a three-year-old daughter who resides in Rotorua. IPCA concluded in their investigation that the police officers responsible for looking after Athony failed in their duty of care which resulted in his death. Those officers (which the IPCA refers to as officers A, B, C and D) were given a written warning.
  • Te Arawa koeke is tackled by police. Koeke says the police used brutal and unnecessary force on him.


  • Police carry out raids on Tuhoe households. This case is being litigated.
  • 14-year-old Ngati Pikiao male Pehi Tahana is killed in a police chase just outside of Rotorua. IPCA says the police should have never used road spikes to stop the car Pehi was driving.

In no way am I saying that our people are innocent of any wrongdoing because some of them are quite frankly guilty of committing crime, Renee said.

My point is that it should not be the role of the police to play judge and jury in their treatment of our people.

Unfortunately, for Athony, the boys from Otaki and Pehi, they never saw the court room, they never got the chance to enter their plea.

There are some very good police officers and I do not wish to lay blame on them because we too as a people, as whanau must take responsibility for those of ours who do wrong.

Renee said Te Arawa should be concerned that Maori in Rotorua were in a worse situation now concerning police apprehensions than they were prior to the signing of the MoU.

Rotorua has the highest police prosecution rate in the country (597 per 10,000 residents), and the police here are using the restorative justice and youth aide mechanisms significantly less.

Renee was not expecting a response from the Trust to her letter until after its meeting in mid-December.

One of my kuia told me recently that she accepted a request from the Rotorua police to support them during the blessing of the police cell that Athony died in.

She told me that if she had of known at that time what those officers did, then she would have told them to clean up their own mess.

Never again does she want to see another whanau, another iwi have to come to Te Arawa to take home the tupapaku of a loved one who has died because of careless police action or inaction.

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