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Book Review - Man of Convictions

Book Review - Man of Convictions

Anne Hunt, published by Potangotango Foundation, PO Box 664, Levin 5540, New Zealand, Man of Convictions: Taueki - a man, his tribe and their lake, www.annehunt.co.nz, 2017. 275pp. ISBN 978-0-473-40314-0 (PDF)

This is journalist Anne Hunt's fourth non-fiction book and first e-book. "Man of Convictions" is referred to as "first published" and "V1.11" because Hunt will update the content with new information when it's available. The author states she, "makes no apology for writing this book from the perspective of the Taueki family." Hunt also makes background information available on her website including court documents and transcripts which supports the book's content. She also includes information in the book about her own family history and extensive and enduring involvement in assisting Philip Taueki since 2010.

The e-book comprises 24 chapters on Levin resident Philip Taueki's battles as a kaitiaki of Lake Horowhenua since his return from London in 2004 where he was working as an accountant "...for some time living in the prestigious neighbourhood of WC1 London where members of the Royal Family reside."

But this isn't a book about his impressive academic and professional achievements it is a book about how ugly everything can get when there is a lot at stake. Hunt describes in meticulous and documented detail about Taueki's battles as kaitiaki and the cost he has personally paid including being shot at, assaulted, arrested, thrown in jail; his car was destroyed beyond repair, his home by the lake was sledgehammered until only a shell remained, his much loved dogs were traumatised and he says he was "drugged against my will and without my knowledge." For the last nine months he has been left with no water supply to his residence after Horowhenua District Council illegally turned it off and he will face a retrial on a charge of trespssing on his own land in January 2018 even though he has been aquitted twice of the same charge in previous court cases.

The opening chapter traverses the history of MuaUpoko and Philip's whakapapa to "an ariki by the name of Taueki, the renowned paramount chief" who signed "the Treaty of Waitangi" before launching in chapter after gruelling chapter of his numerous arrests, court cases and the role third parties have played including state and government organisations. The, no doubt, long fought for establishment approval he achieved in London stands in stark contrast to the scorn, ridicule and material deprivation he has experienced since returning to the community where he was born and raised. Many people in his home town of Levin refer to renowned paramount chief Taueki's great great grandson Philip Taueki as "the Mad Maori who lived down by the lake."

The book presents a disturbing picture of what people in positions of power and authority are prepared to do to maintain control over Lake Horowhenua even if it means lying under oath. At one court trial Judge Harvey asked former Horowhenua District Council mayor Brendan Duffy whether two buildings formerly tenanted by the yachting and rowing clubs had toilets and Mr Duffy answered "correct" even though, "On inspection they confirmed there were no toilets to be found." Hunt has included quotes from court transcripts at every point in the book where the facts are likely to be disputed. What Mr Duffy said in court on oath is just one such example of her attention to detail. The behaviour of the local police also leaves a lot to be desired. One of many such instances is described when,"Constable Lionel Currie had certainly not picked a good time to claim he had served this trespass notice on Phil down at the lake. At that precise time, a whole team of councillors and candidates were erecting election hoardings in Levin, all prepared to testify that Phil was with us, hard at work digging holes in the stony ground."

I would have liked to see Lake Horowhenua ownership information included as a separate paragraph in its own right because who the legal owners of Lake Horowhenua are is the crux of the issue Hunt writes about. Instead some of this important information is buried in other references. We know the lake is privately owned because Hunt writes, "A British certificate of title for the lake partition had been issued on 19 March 1899" but annoyingly doesn't say who it was issued to except that "Mua-Upoko’s vast ancestral estate had therefore shrivelled from 52,000 acres in the whole Horowhenua Block to little more than a lake and some sandy acres along the shoreline." Also I would have liked to see mentioned in the book that of the 43 charges laid by Levin police against Phil Taueki 33 have been quashed, dropped or he was found not guilty of. That fact alone suggests something else apart from maintaining law and order was motivating the local police force.

That aside this e-book is essential reading for everyone who lives in Horowhenua, especially Levin, and those interested in reading about history, police injustices, legal cases and precedents, Maori, European/colonial world views and the long and convoluted history of the fight for control over Lake Horowhenua not least because it challenges long held assumptions. Horowhenua District Council officers, elected officials, journalists and media should also read this book.

The e-book is written in a straight-forward and easy to read style and the layout is easy to navigate. At the end of each chapter are notes which include a glossary of terms, names of relevant people, Maori to English translation of certain words, maps and points of interest that help to provide context and understanding. The way the information has been presented makes the timeline of events easy to follow which is important because there were so many arrests, so many charges, so many court cases against Philip Taueki which is why the book is called "Man of Convictions."

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