A Woodville man has been convicted of wilful damage after cutting the penis off a Māori carving.
Milton Wainwright used saws to deface the statue on a walking track in the Manawatu Gorge walking track - leaving iwi distraught.
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Wainwright insisted he meant no offence, but the judge said he knew full well he'd face legal trouble.
"This case absolutely cries out for you to understand the other point of view," Judge Lance Rowe said.
The Palmerston North District Court heard on Monday that before he took matters into his own hands, Wainwright complained about the statue to the council and police - saying it would offend children.
When Newshub spoke to Wainwright last week at his home in Woodville, he said he was trying to "make it decent".
"The first time I saw it, I had a friend with me and she said 'that's disgusting' and I thought, that's quite right, it is."
He said he was trying to uphold his beliefs. Wainwright also showed Newshub the saws he used.
Rangitane Kaumatua Manahi Paewai said Mr Wainwright had no authority damaging the carving.
He said iwi take identity through their ancestors and that the statues reflect fertility.
"In our carvings, it needs to be shown, is shown and will continue to be shown that they are either male or female."
Paewai said his community has been left in anguish, saying he was "a little bit astounded by this sort of thing this day and age".
"[I] thought we'd sort of moved past all of this."
The statue has been removed by the Department of Conservation, but there are plans to replace it.
Wainwright will undertake restorative justice before his sentencing in September.