SOLO-NZ Op-ED—"Violence is a virtue": Why the Urewera 17 posed an objective threat to New Zealand

Phil Howison's picture
Submitted by Phil Howison on Wed, 2008-01-16 04:06

On the 15th of October 2007, several hundred armed police officers executed search warrants around New Zealand. They cordoned off Ruatoki, a small Maori village south of Whakatane, seized a number of firearms, and arrested 17 people. The police claimed that the raids, carried out under post 9/11 anti-terror legislation, were in the interests of public safety. What was revealed shocked New Zealand. Dozens of Maori, anarchist and environmental activists had been training in a series of camps in the Ruatoki area, which the police considered 'terrorist training camps'. Intercepted conversations revealed in court had the arrestees talking about declaring war on New Zealand and planning to kill white people.

In response, the activist networks which had had members arrested sprang into action [1]. Newsletters, press releases, worldwide protests and a march on Parliament called for the 17 “political prisoners” to be released. By endless repetition of the same unproven stories – accusing police officers of searching a school bus, leaving children without food or water, trashing houses, and so on – these activists have successfully diverted attention from the very real threat which the Police neutralised. The image of police overreaction against peaceful protesters fits comfortably with media discourse. This was augmented by the fact that it was impossible for the Solicitor-General to lay charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act – not because there was no threat, he pointed out, but because the Act was so poorly drafted.

The result is an injustice against the New Zealand Police, who took control of the situation without any shots being fired and with no casualties. This article, drawing on leaked police evidence, will attempt to restore public confidence in the police by demonstrating why the alleged terrorists posed an objective threat to New Zealand's security.

Historical precedents
The main reason why the raids shocked New Zealand was because of the pervasive idea that New Zealand is free of terrorism. This is not the case, and the plans of the Urewera plotters are not without precedent. Just to cite a few examples:

  • The Tuhoe tribe was semi-independent until the early 20th century. The last instance of violent rebellion was during a 1916 police raid on Maungapohatu, which left three Maori separatists dead.
  • Supporters of striking waterfront workers in Wellington in 1913 engaged in sabotage and attempted bombings.
  • During the Vietnam War, a group of students bombed military depots and other targets which they identified as right-wing – even the NZ Rugby Union [2].
  • In 1969 and 1973, Molotov cocktails and bombs were thrown at US diplomatic targets.
  • In 1982, New Zealand's only suicide bombing involved anarchist Neil Roberts blowing himself up in the Police Computer Centre foyer in Wanganui, causing minor damage.
  • In 1987, a gang of Rastafarians in Ruatoria began an armed insurgency. Like the 2007 plotters, their leader declared war on New Zealand and talked about killing white people and driving farmers from their land. Their reign of terror involved capturing armed police at gunpoint, accusations of police brutality, and the arson of more than 60 buildings, including the courthouse and the police station. The rebellion only stopped when the Rasta leader, Chris Campbell, was shot dead by a local farmer in self-defence [3].

The network
The plot involved a large number of people around New Zealand, although most were based in Auckland, Wellington and Ruatoki. More than 50 suspects were identified by the Police, but up to 200 may have passed through the camps. Several camp attendees could not be identified, and most of those identified were not arrested. This is a testament to the security of the network – attendees used masks and code names to conceal their identities. Members were recruited through tribal and family links at first, but in 2007 they were joined by like-minded political activists. These included members of Peace Action Wellington (an anarchist front) and the Save Happy Valley Campaign, a 'direct-action' environmentalist group. The attendees of the training camps included the leadership of many well-known organizations.

The weapons
The network had an arsenal of rifles, shotguns and pistols, including military-style semiautomatics, and used high-capacity magazines and silencers. A grenade launcher was obtained, and Molotov cocktails were used at the camps. Attendees carried weapons at all times, firing off hundreds of rounds and carrying out ambush drills under the instruction of at least one Vietnam veteran and an ex-Territorial soldier.

Tuhoe activists have repeated the lie that only 4 weapons and 230 rounds of ammunition were seized so often that the media have taken it as fact. One Ruatoki suspect had two .22 calibre rifles and a 7.62 mm Saiga (a hunting rifle based on the AK-47) while another suspect had one rifle seized. However, many other weapons were found as well, according to Detective Inspector Bruce Good, who claimed that 20 weapons were seized including “AK-47 assault rifles, shotguns, rifles and pistols, plus silencers, scopes, ammunition and firearms parts.” [4]

Most of the firearms were purchased legally through one of the Auckland arrestees – one of the few members of the network with a firearms license. He bought rifles online through TradeMe, from Gun City in Christchurch, from two Auckland gun shops, and from a North Shore arms collector. The same North Shore dealer cut down a shotgun for him, offered to sell him “fireworks” and gave him an imported Chinese grenade launcher in exchange for a website. The suspect bought so much ammo – thousands of rounds – that he resorted to buying an ammunition-making machine, which he was paying off when he was arrested. He also modified a replica Glock starter pistol to fire live rounds, which he suggested could be used for an “execution-style” shooting.

Some of these weapons were transferred to anarchists and “peace activists”. This included an SKS (Russian predecessor of the AK-47) in Auckland, and a silenced .22 calibre firearm – possibly a pistol – given to a Wellington arrestee. Media reports suggest that no weapons were seized in Wellington, so these weapons may still be available to the suspects, who are all out on bail.

Gang links
Unsurprisingly given the popularity of gangs in the Ruatoki area, many of the suspects have gang connections. Two of them attempted to buy firearms from gang members. A Christchurch-based suspect was a former Black Power member, while a Hamilton arrestee had links to Mongrel Mob members. Of the 50 or so identified suspects, over half have criminal records. The most serious charges include aggravated robbery, burglary, assault, domestic violence, and injuring with intent using a firearm. Another arrestee was involved in an armed standoff with police in Ruatoki last year after assaulting his partner.

It appears that violent criminals were deliberately recruited – when one of the leaders asked a friend in Wairoa to recommend new recruits, the reply was that some men he knew were too violent for the camps. The reply was “Chur bro, violence is a virtue”.

The Tuhoe tribe has long been associated with the Mongrel Mob. These gang links could have given the plotters access to illegal firearms and a network of safe houses across New Zealand. It is a common trend for the boundary between street gangs and insurgency to be blurred in modern warfare. This is certainly the case in Northern Ireland and Iraq, the two conflicts which most influenced the Urewera plotters.

International links
Many of the activists who were arrested had links to the Zapatista movement in Mexico, which staged a violent rebellion in 1994 against NAFTA, and has extensive international links with anarchist and indigenous-rights movements. At least one had travelled to Chiapas to meet Zapatista leaders recently.

The leader of the Urewera plotters visited Fiji last year, but was deported because of his support for the indigenous coup leaders in Fji's attempted coup in 2000.

More ominously, he also visited Iran, known internationally as the worst state sponsor of terrorism [5]. This was reportedly to arrange a business deal, although this story is discredited by the police transcripts, which reveal a discussion between the other leaders as to whether he would gain better contacts in Iraq or Iran. It is nor hard to imagine Islamic terrorists finding it cost-effective to “outsource” their desired attacks on New Zealand to local groups, although this is pure speculation.

So what did the plotters actually plan to do? The absence of specific plans was one of the main reasons why terror charges could not be laid against them. However, they did have several ideas. A priority for the group was developing the capacity to defend an independent Tuhoe nation in the Ureweras, while also having the ability to strike at the heart of the New Zealand government in Wellington. This was the motivation behind the recruitment of the Wellington “peace activists”. Specifically, attacking Parliament and assassinating John Key after the 2008 election were discussed. The Wellington group wanted to blow up power stations, gas plants, telecommunications and Waihopai signals intelligence base. One Auckland anarchist suggested that bombings would cause the public to think it was Al-Qaeda, and that they would lose public support. He was told that the strategy was to “divide Aotearoa”, and that public support, except amongst Tuhoe, was irrelevant.

In the Tuhoe area itself, the plotters planned to drive farmers from their land and resist an expected counterattack from the Police Special Tactics Group, using armour-piercing rounds to penetrate body armour. The leaders also discussed having recruits prove themselves by carrying out an armed robbery, and killing white people for “practice” to get them used to the idea of killing.

Ultimately, though, the Urewera plotters were dangerous not because of their guns or their anti-government plans, but because of their irrational, anti-life philosophy. It has been reported that the camps attendees were a disparate collection of activists, all with different ideologies. As New Zeal blogger Trevor Loudon has proven, however, they all had one ideology. Their ideal for New Zealand is unrestricted tribalism, no government, no rule of law, no industry, and no private property rights. Whether their focus is on indigenous rights, the environment, anarchism or “peace”, their activist organizations were linked. One over-arching organization which Loudon has identified is People's Global Action, a Zapatista-inspired network which many of the arrestees were involved in [6].
It would be beyond the scope of this article to explain exactly why this philosophy is irrational and anti-life. However it can be shown that those arrested are the enemies of Western civilization, technological progress, capitalism, free trade and human industry. See Not PC's posts “The litmus test for 'social justice'” and “Another named” for examples [7].

The police were fully justified in their actions. Aside from the Dominion Post and the Christchurch Press, the media appear to have swallowed the stories of Tuhoe activists hook, line and sinker, resulting in myths such as the police search of a schoolbus (which never happened) and only four weapons being seized (it was 20) being repeated without question. It was the poorly drafted Terrorism Suppression Act which has left New Zealand almost defenceless, legally speaking, against a serious internal threat by well-armed, well-organized extremists, including many violent criminals, who sought ties with the terrorist state sponsor Iran, and who planned to kill people for practice. In short, the enemies of Western civilization itself. Congratulations to the New Zealand Police for their skilled and professional response, and shame on the media, politicians and activists who have attempted to minimize a very real threat to our security.

1 A press release on the 23rd October 2007 by newly formed organization “Friends of Wellington Terror Arrestees” listed 18 separate groups which the four people arrested in Wellington were involved in.
2 Tim Shadbolt, Bullshit and Jellybeans, 1971, pp. 127-9.
3 Ray van Beynen, Zero-Alpha: The NZ Police Armed Offenders Squad official history, HATM Productions, Auckland 1998, p. 108.
4 Associated Press, "Raid on Maori Village Opens Old Wound," December 16 2007.
5 Trevor Loudon, "Iti Visited Iran?" November 18, 2007.
6 Trevor Loudon, "'Smoking Gun'-Proof That 'Urewera 17' Were Linked To International Anarchist Network," January 6 2008.
Trevor Loudon, "Origins of the Anarchist/Maori Radical Alliance 5 (Final)," January 11 2008.
7 Peter Cresswell, Not PC, October 23 and November 15 2007.

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dinther's picture
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Enable rich text and post.

Of course put in your own link to the picture you want it does not have to the cover of the free radical but it helps Wink



Global warming is a hoax and spread the word.

Very nice...

Robert's picture

Right, I'm off to go sweep my girlfriend off her feet. Got to get some practice in for Valentines day Smiling

Remember, if you feel that you can't say anything nice about someone, clear it with Uncle Hudgins first.

Actually, with me gone for the weekend, SOLO-Passion should see a 1,000-fold increase in civility. I'll be back on Monday to drag you all back into the sewer again.

It's the least I can do.

See you fullas later.



Lindsay Perigo's picture

See new press release. Smiling


Robert's picture

Marvellous stuff Lance and Phil.

I'm assuming that RNZ is still taxpayer funded? If so, why shouldn't they receive the OP-eds from their employers?

Point taken

Big Ben's picture

From now on I'll use the spell check.

How do you post pictures?

Bloody hell Ben

dinther's picture

I would be the last to complain about spelling but that is just too much. Below you see what you would have seen if you would bother to click on the spelling button every once in a while. I circled it in red for you.

Fantastic work Phil, the

Lance's picture

Fantastic work Phil, the responses below show that this was certainly being read by those on our mailing lists. And they didn't like it one bit! (Truth hurts huh?)

Responses to SOLO-NZ Op-ED—"Violence is a virtue": Why the Urewera 17 posed an objective threat to New Zealand

From Radio New Zealand:
"Thankyou for your opinions Mr Howison.
Can RNZ please be removed immediately from any mailing lists under your control.
RNZ News."

From Simon at Waiheke Gulf News:
"Stop sending me your pathetic right-wing drivel."

From Gordon Copeland:
"That's a very helpful piece. Thank you . Not all MP's of course gave the police a hard time. I put out the attached press release on the 18th of October. All good wishes for 2008."

Gordon Copeland Press Release
For Immediate Release
Thursday, 18th October 2007

Are we Police bashing?

Independent MP Gordon Copeland is concerned that the recent so called terrorism operation has taken police bashing to a new level. While he says there are obviously times when police, like any organisation, attract criticism and are not immune from scrutiny, this week’s nation-wide operation has seen matters become ridiculous.

He sited a NZ Herald website online question asking readers if the police should have done the operation, and referring to various sensitive issues around the operation.

“Does this mean the next time police decide to do a traffic alcohol blitz in say Pïpïwai, we’re going to be asking them to be more sensitive to the communities there? Or the next time they mount a nation wide drug bust involving possible armed offenders, are we all going to be bleating again?” says Mr Copeland.

The Future NZ party leader believes there are people with political interests trying to make mileage out of the recent police operation.

“Some of these people would be the first on the phone for police help if they were under threat but when they or their friends are being investigated, it’s another story,” he says.

“We have seen lawyers, politically interested individuals and activists getting unprecedented prime media time, all because the police, at the end of a long careful investigation, decided to do their job.”

“Police are becoming an easy and popular target for sensationalism.”

He is concerned that the constant bashing must eventually affect moral of police front line staff, and a lack of leadership at government level is failing to calm the situation.


so much for national

Big Ben's picture

 soverinty still I wouldn't expect anything less from the UN.

good work phil

Pressure needs to be put on the govt to pass a bill allowing the release of the information even if its done after the firearm charges have been put through. Just so no one can cast doubt on the merits or other wise of the police handling of the raids.

Theres been talk for the last 20 years of maori activists who had joined the military simply to learn skills they could pass on to other activists to take back new zealand by force (well so I've heard). Talked to someone at a rifle range recently who said he knew one of the accused (a vietnam vet) who said they accused told him that yes they were playing silly baggers in the bush and teaching boy more than bush craft but that there was no evil intention in it. He said the guy had asked him why he would harm NZ after fighting for it in veitnam. They guy who told me this was not your normal hippi simpathising idiot ethier the earlier part of the conversation I had with him was about how this country is set up for losers (ie he was anti welfare, anti greens, anti being told what to do, anti tax ect). I believed he was telling me the truth but thats not to say he was told the truth in the first place.

We really need the information to be released so we can know the true extent to the threat. 

"Hitler was a drug free vegetarian. DO your part to fight fascism eat meat and do drugs"

Oh dear - Now the UN.

Mark Hubbard's picture

Have you seen this Phil, just posted to NBR: UN requests explanation on NZ anti-terror raids.


Lindsay Perigo's picture

More ominously, he also visited Iran, known internationally as the worst state sponsor of terrorism [5]. This was reportedly to arrange a business deal, although this story is discredited by the police transcripts, which reveal a discussion between the other leaders as to whether he would gain better contacts in Iraq or Iran.

Why are we not surprised? At this, and the lack of media focus on it?

Well done Phil.

Well done Phil

Sandi's picture

Superb work.

  Nice piece Phil.  

Mark Hubbard's picture


Nice piece Phil.  

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