Prison a chance to 'be creative' – Iti

Wednesday 27 Feb 2013 4:53 p.m.

Tuhoe activist Tame Iti is home with his family in Ruatoki, released from prison after serving a third of the two-and-a-half-year sentence for possessing firearms.

But it hasn't put him off using guns again. Iti says they're part of Tuhoe culture.

Iti was smiling and back at his late mother's marae near Hamilton within an hour of being released. He says being in a cell gave him time to write, read and do art.

“I tell you it's really strange,” he says. “I really enjoyed my day. My whole nine months there, I think it was a time for me to be creative.

“I had to work out how am I able to navigate myself with rapists, murderers and wannabe gangsters.”

Iti says he did that by working with young inmates and got a job.

“My first job there was in the garage working as a wannabe mechanic – greasing up cars, checking out warrants of fitness.”

He says he missed his family and luxuries like coffee.

“Good colonial bad habits – cappuccino. When you're in prison you've got to wheel and deal on how to get that supply of coffee.”

Iti spent nine months in jail for possessing guns and explosives in 2007. Police say camps in the Urewera bush were for teaching violence. Iti says it was all about bush survival and he'll continue to hunt and use guns, as he has on many occasions before.

“Firearms have always been an intricate part of the culture – always have been, always will be,” he says.

Elders say Iti still has widespread support.

“The power that comes from him, nobody can match it,” says Heke I Te Rangi, Kuia Kaumatua, of Hukanui Marae. "I'm proud to know that Tame has that mana.”

Iti's partner had a surprise for him when he got home.

“I know she's looking forward to getting him back, and she's cooked him a mean feed of mutton bird tonight,” says son Wairere Iti. “She'll probably get him to mow the lawns when he gets back.”

Iti says he doesn't resent being locked up, but is still appealing his sentence and conviction.

His penalty isn't over yet. Iti will have to stay at his home in Ruatoki until his parole conditions run out in October next year. Iti says until that time, he'll remain a political prisoner.

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