Minister Nanaia Mahuta tears up in speech over historic 'wrongful arrest' of Rua Kēnana

Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta has delivered a moving speech in Parliament over the historic "wrongful" arrest of a man in 1916. 

Legislation was read in Parliament on Thursday that would pardon a spiritual leader, who was arrested more than a hundred years ago when 70-armed police invaded Maungapōhatu in the Bay of Plenty. 

The invasion was later deemed illegal.  

He was the spiritual leader of the Iharaira faith - followers of the Lost Tribe of Israel. The Government is acknowledging his wrongful arrest had lasting effects on his descendants and followers. 

In 2012, the Waitangi Tribunal determined that excessive force was used in the arrest of Rua Kēnana and was unlawfully carried out as it was on a Sunday.

"It is important that the Crown acknowledges its actions caused lasting damage to Rua Kēnana and his descendants," Mahuta, a Labour MP, said. 

"We still have a long way to go to raise awareness about our shared history but moments like today help us move into the future with increasing confidence."

The minister was tearful as she explained how the legislation is outside the Treaty settlement process and will "have no impact on existing Treaty settlements and involves no financial or cultural redress". 

"I consider that the Bill will go a long way to restoring the reputation and mana of the Crown."

Rua Kēnana.
Rua Kēnana. Photo credit: File

It follows an agreement in 2017 under the former government that it would apologise to followers of the faith and Kēnana's descendants over the invasion. 

Rapata Wiri, the great-great-grandson of the second man killed in the invasion, Te Maipi Te Whiu, told Newshub in 2017 the impacts of the 1916 raid were intergenerational. 

"The faith itself was destroyed and so we're hoping that this process will help rebuild the community," he said at the time. 

Mahuta said the legislation was read at a fitting time, the same day the Government also announced that New Zealand history will be taught in our schools by 2022.

The Bill's first reading also coincided with a plaque unveiled Thursday morning in the debating chamber at Parliament to commemorate the New Zealand Wars.