Sonny Tau faces new charge

  • 12/11/2015
Sonny Tau (File)
Sonny Tau (File)

Northland iwi leader Sonny Tau has now admitted hunting protected native birds and faces a new and more serious charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Tau, 61, had earlier admitted having five dead kereru, or wood pigeon, but denied killing or hunting them.

However, he changed his plea on the latter charge when he appeared in Auckland District Court on this afternoon.

Police have also laid a new charge, conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

He has entered no plea to that, his lawyer John Munro confirmed to NZ Newswire.

Tau was found at Invercargill Airport in June with five dead birds in his jacket.

The kereru, the native wood pigeon, has been protected by law since 1912 and Tau faces a fine of up to $100,000 and/or two years in jail on the bird-related charges.

However, the most recent charge attracts a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.

The Ngapuhi elder has stood down from his role as a Treaty of Waitangi negotiator for the iwi.

He has voiced his regret over his actions saying: "I also wish to say this was a mistake, which I deeply regret. The laws around native bird protection are important and to be respected by all, myself included".

However, some Maori have supported him, saying it was culturally acceptable to eat the birds, and he retained the support of his iwi.

He is due back in court in January.