The protesters have gone for now – but why weren’t the Popatas jailed after their run-in with the PM?

Excuse me, sir, but do you have time for an interview?

Oops. Alf failed to record his admiration for the way a patch of land in the Far North has been restored to public ownership.

He refers, of course, to the removal of a bunch of Naughty Kahu land protesters from a Far North sailing club on a District Council reserve.

The Herald reported on Wednesday –

The police arrived at the Taipa Sailing Club, 30km northeast of Kaitaia, soon after first light today and told a Ngati Kahu protest group occupying the land they have to move off.

The occupiers were given the option of walking off peacefully or being arrested for trespass, Senior Sergeant Geoff Ryan said.

A number said they would not leave the land so they went through the “arrest process”, he said.

Those arrested had been taken to Kaitaia police station, where police would decide whether charges should be laid.

The Herald tells of singing breaking out as the occupiers were taken to the police van, to shouts of support from onlookers.

The eviction was long overdue.

The group had been camping on the land since last month to protest the Far North District Council retaining ownership of the land.

This was restricting access to sailing club members and the protest action forced the cancellation of children’s sailing lessons for the summer.

It seems things went relatively quietly, during the eviction, except for the singing, contrary to what Alf had expected based on a Radio NZ report.

Radio NZ the previous day had said the protest mob was preparing for a confrontation with police.

Radio NZ also reported The Boss’s feelings on the matter.

Prime Minister John Key says the Government is concerned about the occupation, which he says is illegal and counterproductive to the Treaty settlement process.

Mr Key says it is up to Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson to determine whether the land was confiscated from the iwi by the Crown.

The group has sought a meeting with Mr Finlayson, but Mr Key says that whether the meeting goes ahead depends on whether the group holds the negotiating mandate for the iwi.

The occupation was led by a Wikatana Popata, who – along with a brother – had gained notoriety by roughing up the PM at Waitangi last year.

They had assaulted him “in a rush of blood” because of their concern over land being confiscated from Maori, Kaikohe District Court was told later.

The best thing to come of the court hearing was the Popatas’ job descriptions.

According to the Nelson Mail –

But Judge John McDonald told John Junior Popata, 33, a researcher, and Wikatana Popata, 19, an interviewer, that violence in any form was not an acceptable way of protest under New Zealand law and it was serious because of who they had targeted.

They were convicted and each sentenced to 100 hours’ community work.

Prosecuting sergeant Russell Price told the court Mr Key was being greeted outside Te Tii Marae on February 5 when he was grabbed by the front of his suit jacket by John Junior Popata.

He had pulled at Mr Key’s jacket and yelled that he was not to go on to the marae.

Security men and iwi liaison officers broke Popata’s hold on the prime minister’s jacket and led him away.

John Junior Popata told police he had wanted to talk to Mr Key about Maori issues and about Maori land being taken.

Wikatana Popata had approached the prime minister from behind, pulling his jacket back, Mr Price said. Again, security officers intervened and broke his hold.

He told police he had wanted to give Mr Key ”
a wake up call” and that he was from Ngati Kahu whose land had been taken in the Far North.

The need to evict these ruffians from the council’s land suggests, of course, that there is no great demand for researchers and interviewres in the Far North and so they have nothing much better to do except become pains in the community arse, especially now their community work – presumably – has been completed.

It’s a pity Judge McDonald failed to lock the buggers up for a long, long time – as was justifed, surely, in a case of assault against our Prime Minister.

It is an even greater shame that we no longer have “hard labour” as part of the prison deal.

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