Two defendants refuse to stand for judge as Kaitaia Airport occupation trial starts

The trial of six Maori protesters over the shutting down of Kaitaia Airport last year is underway in the Far North.

The Maori protesters are marching ahead of a trial over the September 2015 occupation of the town’s airport. Source: 1 NEWS

Activists occupied the airport for several days, ordering staff out of the terminal, setting up tents and eventually setting fire to tyres before police marched in and forced them out. 

World War II 28th Maori Battalion veteran Selwyn Clark is one of the six defendants.

The occupation was in protest against the passing of the $100 million Te Hiku settlement bill for iwi in the Far North which involved the airport land.

The bill was the final settlement of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims.

The group has pleaded not guilty to trespass charges claiming it was iwi land to begin with.

This morning the group brought traffic to a standstill as they marched through Kaitaia to the court with their supporters carrying banners and chanting.

The trial is being heard by Judge Gibson. When he entered the court two of the six defendants refused to stand for him.

Judge Gibson is overseeing the trial and has denied media requests to film the case.

The public gallery is packed with supporters, including Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.

The activists are being represented by Annette Sykes who is seeking to call Maori academic, Margaret Mutu, as her leading expert which is being opposed by the prosecution.

The protesters have set up camp at Kaitaia Airport – and told staff what they had to do Source: 1 NEWS

The trial has been set down for a week.