Tūhoe leadership tussle: Activist Tame Iti shoved as tempers fray at protest

Tūhoe security guards pushed artist Tame Iti during an intense stand-off over the iwi’s leadership by a group of dissatisfied hapū.

Protests within the Tūhoe nation show no sign of letting up. In the last three months, kaumātua have staged at least five protests.

For the first time, tempers began to fray at a protest on Monday.

Two protesters were pushed by security guards outside the Te Uru Taumatua headquarters – including prominent Tūhoe artist Tame Iti.

Anger at leadership decisions has seen some hapū pull away from the iwi’s governing authority Te Uru Taumatua (TUT).

Protesters would like to see leaders within the organisation resign and for TUT to adhere to a Māori Land Court ruling to hold fresh elections for two trustee positions after it ruled the election held for those positions was invalid.

Protesters are led by Paki Nikora of Te Kaunihera Kaumātua o Tūhoe, a group of Tūhoe kaumātua who have opposed TUT leadership for many years.

At the protest on Monday, security guards in orange hi-vis attempted to stop protesters from hammering signs into the grass on the roadside.

One security guard pulled a sign from the grass and pushed it into Iti’s chest. Another woman said she too had been pushed by the guards when hammering signs into the ground.

Many protesters yelled “assault” and threatened to call the police.

Security tried telling protesters they had no right to hammer signs into the grass, but Iti debated the issue with them and said it was council land not TUT land and the guards could call the police and council if they wanted.

Iti, who is in his late 60s, told the guards they needed to accept protesters had a difference of opinion to them when it came to the actions of TUT and that protesters had a right to be there.

After several tense minutes and a back-and-forth with the protesters who filmed the encounter, the security guards retreated somewhat down the TUT driveway.

Protesters passed around a petition that called on TUT to hold fresh elections with independent scrutineers, for leaders to step down and for TUT to stop making significant decisions on behalf of the iwi until after the fresh elections.

In May, the Māori Land Court gave TUT six months to hold fresh elections for the two trustee positions.

Protester Kararaina Nepe said she was protesting because she believed in what the kaumātua were standing up for.

“TUT needs to hold fresh elections that are open and transparent,” she said. “We need scrutineers to make sure those elections are carried out correctly, we were left out last time.”

TUT did not respond to requests for comment but has released a series of videos and statements on the Ngai Tūhoe Facebook page.

In these, it responds to some of the claims made by protesters and states that it has been treated unfairly by media covering the protests.

In one of the videos TUT said it had invited Te Kaunihera Kaumātua o Tūhoe for a meeting to discuss their differences but the group had declined the invitation.

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