Joe Collier was stabbed in a gang-related attack in Opotiki, Bay of Plenty, on Sunday. He was to have been transported 141km from Rotorua to arrive at Rangipo Prison at 11am today.
Rangipo was in lockdown to prepare for his arrival, and the Taupo-based Tuwharetoa iwi have “expressed concern” it was not properly consulted about the body being taken on to its land.
Tuwharetoa kaumatua Tuatea Smallman told the Taupo Times this was against protocol, which dictated Tuwharetoa were meant to be told first and to organise the trip.
Smallman, who worked at the prison for 22 years, was heading there to meet officials to discuss the issue this morning.
Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board Chief executive Topia Rameka said, while he was initially unaware of the issue, prison officials told him it was an operational issue.
“They have got protocol that they have to follow and we respect that,” he said.
Prison guards said they would have preferred the father to have been escorted to the tangi. The decision to bring the body to the prison was a directive from above.
Waikato University professor Pou Temara said it was protocol to ask for permission from local iwi when transporting a body to an iwi where none of the parties were from.
The issue in this case could be the fact neither Collier, nor his father, were part of the Tuwharetoa iwi, he said.
“Perhaps the kaumatua is concerned about why they are taking the body there. They need a good reason to take a body over Tuwharetoa land without first contacting the tangata whenua and the body is being transported for a very unusual reason,” he said.
Temara said the protocol did not apply when simply travelling through different iwi land as it would make transporting a body over long distances difficult.
TV One’s Breakfast was told today that Collier’s father has been granted the time in Rangipo Prison with his son due to high security risks surrounding the death.
He was denied leave from prison to visit his son as a large Black Power presence was expected in Rotorua today.
Collier had Mongrel Mob links, though his mother-in-law said he was not a member, and had no plans to join.
The body would be escorted into the prison by family members and police so his father had the opportunity to farewell his son, the Department of Corrections said.
“The group will be taken to a secure, private area and no other prisoners will be present,” the department said.
“A kaumatua will be present to perform a blessing and welcome the body onto the site.”
Prison staff had been re-assigned to assist with the arrangements.
“Corrections passes its condolences onto this young man’s family and friends at this very sad time.”
– Taupo Times