Give Sonny a break – and spare a thought for the kaumatua who have been deprived of his gift

These couldn't be so easily carried on to a plane - not by mistake, anyway.

These couldn’t be so easily carried on to a plane – not by mistake, anyway.

Alf is disinclined to add his voice to the cries of outrage about a prominent indigenous person who has become embroiled in a row over his relationship with  indigenous birds.

No, stupid. Not wahine.

We are talking here of kereru, or native wood pigeons for any of Alf’s constituents who might be recent immigrants.

The NZ Herald reports here on the matter:

Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau has admitted to being caught in possession of dead kereru and says he deeply regrets his mistake.

Mr Tau confirmed that he was questioned on Tuesday by a Department of Conservation officer about the kereru –
also known as native wood pigeon – in his possession.

Oh dear.

It’s a rare bird and it is protected.

Sonny could face a fine of up to $100,000 if convicted.

Or he could do time in the slammer – six months according to Stuff; two years according to Radio NZ.

But let’s press on with what he had to say:

In a statement released this evening, he said: “I wish to assure you I did and will continue to fully co-operate with any investigation.

“I also wish to say this was a mistake, which I deeply regret. The laws around native bird protection are important and to be respected by all, myself included.”

Alf is fascinated to see that this was a mistake.

His curiosity is aroused because the Herald goes on to report:

It is believed that Mr Tau was questioned while boarding a plane in Invercargill, and was carrying five of the birds under his jacket.

Alf can just imagine poor old Sonny’s dismay at this discovery.

Mind you, we are entitled to wonder what he thought he had under his jacket.

Perhaps someone had told him they were mutton birds.

At least for now, however, it looks like we are not going to find out – at least, not from Sonny.

The chairman of the Northland-based iwi said it was important to note that no charges had been laid. He would not comment further.

Mrs Grumble had to go to Stuff to find what Sonny intended doing with the birds:

According to Stuff, Sonny was reportedly taking the dead birds home to Northland as a gift for kaumatua.

But not all northerners are pleased with him.

Stuff says a member of Ngapuhi’s treaty settlement team has resigned in protest at chairman Sonny’s plight.

Mita Harris, also chairman of Northland’s Conservation Board, told 3 News he was resigning because he did not support what had happened.

“To have this happen is an absolute slap in the face; Sonny Tau needs to face the people. Sonny Tau needs to face Ngapuhi and man up to what he has done,” Harris told TV3.

Harris is not alone in expressing disapproval.

Radio NZ reports another critic’s call for his head to roll:

Far North District Councillor and Ngati Hine lawyer Willow-Jean Prime said it was not right for him to continue in his leadership roles.

She said leaders should lead by example.

“He’s in a position of trust and this is not a good example that he is setting here.

“And I believe that he should resign from all of his positions.”

This report raised the question of Sonny’s entitlement to exercise his special rights to scoff the pigeon:

She said there had been an argument that eating kereru was a traditional Maori practice.

But she said both tikanga and pakeha law confirm kereru are a protected species, and that should be respected.

We must suppose the birds are now in the possession of law-and-order authorities.

Alf trusts they are being kept in a freezer until a decision is made about their disposal, and when it comes to the disposal – well, he is willing to help out.

He has never eaten kereru, so far as he is aware.

He would love to give ’em a go.

And if Sonny hasn’t been sent to jail, he would invite him and his missus to join the Grumbles – one bird each with one left over for a special guest yet to be decided.

With good Scotch to wash ’em down.

Oh – and here’s a thought: it’s perhaps just as well our indigenous persons rid the country of moa way back in history.

Our wildlife authorities are bound to have wanted them protected too, and Sonny would have some difficulty explaining how a clutch of them were being carried accidentally beneath his jacket on to a plane.

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