Porirua City:

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Two other marae chipped in to feed the crowds: ‘‘That’s what maraes do every day, we feed peo­ple, and not just Maori peo­ple.’’

As the Fri­day night wore on, it be­came ap­par­ent that peo­ple couldn’t go home, and a call for blan­kets went out. Within min­utes Porirua re­sponded.

While guests bed­ded down at the marae, their host stayed up to wel­come strag­glers brought in by Maori war­dens.

That night, peo­ple from all cul­tures slept next to each other un­der do­nated blan­kets in Te Horouta’s sleep­ing house.

‘‘It was a cold night, but that wharenui was warm,’’ Houka­mau-Nga­heu re­calls.

She doesn’t like to call the in­ci­dent ‘‘the siege’’. It’s not the right word for what hap­pened. ‘‘It was more than that, it was about peo­ple be­ing a com­mu­nity and help­ing each other. Not a siege.’’

It came to an end 26 hours af­ter it started. Things had gone silent, and po­lice went into the house, where they found Te Kira dead, a gun next to him.

Later that day his un­cle, Rikki Te Kira, stood out­side the house, of­fer­ing his apolo­gies to the neigh­bour­hood and to Gazza’s han­dler, Con­sta­ble Josh Robert­son, say­ing the fam­ily were shat­tered by what had hap­pened.

Te Kira was the only son of Rikki’s brother, Robert, who died when Pita was about seven. Pita had be­come a very quiet child af­ter that.

He was raised by his mother and was close to his grand­mother.

‘‘We’re very sad­dened,’’ Rikki said at the time. ‘‘I feel for his mother, she’s done her best to raise him.’’

The next day, Houka­mauN­ga­heu was one of three el­ders who donned gas masks as they went in to bless the house.

‘‘He was just a boy. A boy who didn’t think he had an­other way out.’’


Mike Ta­here of­ten won­ders if he did the right thing. ‘‘I look back on it and say, did we, the po­lice, do enough to change the out­come?’’

Te Kira’s death weighs heav­ily on the now-re­tired po­lice­man, an iwi li­ai­son of­fi­cer at the time of the siege.

‘‘I wanted to go in and talk to him. I thought if we could speak face to face I could con­vince him to come out.’’

De­ter­mined not to crit­i­cise the po­lice force he is loyal to, Ta­here can’t help but won­der what could have been, if he had gone into the Kokiri Cres house.

‘‘He was a very troubled man, but it was about safety for the po­lice, they couldn’t let me in. I would have told him he had a fam­ily out there who loved him.’’

Te Kira loved his fam­ily too, Ta­here said.

He said it was un­der­stand­able that ac­cu­sa­tions were levelled by some at po­lice in the wake of his death, that they had killed Te Kira, with the can­is­ter of gas or by shoot­ing him.

‘‘But the only per­son in the room was that one guy. There was no­body else in­volved.’’

‘‘The death of that man was not what I wanted to hap­pen,’’ Wai­tan­girua Sergeant Jono Westrupp, who broke his wrist and shoul­der leap­ing out of a win­dow to escape Te Kira, told the Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion mag­a­zine, Po­lice News, last June: ‘‘He re­ally needed help and we had wanted to get him that help.’’

As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Sam Hoyle, who was Welling­ton District Com­man­der at the time, said talk that po­lice had killed Te Kira was hurt­ful to the of­fi­cers in­volved.

‘‘There is ab­so­lutely no sub­stance to the ru­mours that po­lice shot or ac­ci­den­tally gassed Pita Te Kira. The fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion as to the cause of Mr Te Kira’s death will be made by the coro­ner.’’

No shots were fired by po­lice dur­ing the in­ci­dent, and the gas used was not lethal, he said.

‘‘Po­lice ac­knowl­edge that this in­ci­dent was trau­matic for the Porirua com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly the res­i­dents of Kokiri Cres­cent di­rectly af­fected . . . How­ever, con­tin­ued spec­u­la­tion as to po­lice in­volve­ment in Mr Te Kira’s death is ex­tremely dis­tress­ing for the staff in­volved in this in­ci­dent and com­pletely un­true.’’

The Independent Po­lice Con­duct Au­thor­ity said it had not in­ves­ti­gated be­cause po­lice had not fired shots. It over­saw the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the case, which was now com­pleted.

Be­cause the case is still with the coro­ner, po­lice are barred from mak­ing pub­lic the find­ings of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

For many of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing for­mer Kapiti-Mana Area Com­man­der In­spec­tor Paul Basham, the siege re­mains a har­row­ing mem­ory: ‘‘Some of our peo­ple were quite badly bro­ken and we lost a po­lice dog. The other layer to that is a young man lost his life.’’

Now South­ern District Com­man­der, he also thinks of the peo­ple bring­ing food and do­na­tions to Te Horouta. ‘‘The sil­ver lin­ing was see­ing how the marae pulled ev­ery­thing to­gether.

‘‘I remember walk­ing away from the siege when it was un­der way, this highly tac­ti­cal, high­in­ten­sity sit­u­a­tion, and then, 10 min­utes down the road, walk­ing into the marae and feeling an over­whelm­ing sense of sanctuary.’’

That sanc­tum was ex­tended to Te Kira’s fam­ily the day af­ter he died, Basham said.

‘‘Af­ter it was all over on Sun­day they were wel­comed on to the marae, along with the po­lice. I talked to his un­cle while we ate a meal and that was pretty spe­cial.’’


The house where Te Kira died – 13A Kokiri Cres – still stands. It was re-let just a few months ago.

The house where Gazza was killed – 26A Kokiri Cres – was torched in the weeks af­ter the siege. Its sole oc­cu­pant was out that night. It was a neigh­bour who saw the flames burst­ing through the lounge’s win­dow.

De­tec­tive Sergeant Dave Jones said there was an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ar­son, but ‘‘all av­enues of in­quiry were ex­hausted with no of­fender iden­ti­fied’’.

One clue was com­pelling. Some­one had left be­hind some food in a poly­styrene container at the crime scene – the kind com­monly used by Chi­nese take­away shops – with a metal spoon in it.

It still looked ‘‘fresh’’ when po­lice picked through the scene af­ter­wards.

They had items from the ar­son scene foren­si­cally tested, Jones said. ‘‘How­ever, no ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing DNA, was ob­tained.’’


Pa­tri­cia Pukeke’s grand­sons spill through her front door in a jostling, laugh­ing tan­gle.

The bikes they’ve been rid­ing up and down Kokiri Cres are biffed on the grass, their own­ers ready for the next ad­ven­ture. It wasn’t al­ways like this. ‘‘For three months af­ter it all hap­pened they were too scared to go out­side and play,’’ Pukeke re­calls. ‘‘The things they saw that day freaked them out too much.’’

Damien Poutu, 11, cor­rects her: he was maybe a lit­tle scared – but remember he was a whole year younger back then. ‘‘The po­lice told us to stay away from the win­dows, but we saw them hid­ing in the bush. Those ger­man shep­herd dogs were jump­ing re­ally high over the fences.’’

His brother, 10-year-old Aries, de­nies be­ing scared at all. But he didn’t like ‘‘all the holes in the house where the man died’’.

‘‘The he­li­copter land­ing out­side our house was cool, though.’’

As the four boys race off on their next mis­sion, Pukeke says the street is back to nor­mal.

‘‘The kids all play like they used to. I’ve been here 16 years and that was the first bad thing to hap­pen.’’


Af­ter the stand­off ended, the fam­ily of Pita Te Kira, as well as friends and com­mu­nity mem­bers, gath­ered out­side as lo­cal kau­matua donned gas masks and went in­side 13A Kokiri Cres to bless each room.

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