Former police officer Shaun Joseph Keenan is charged with theft and is at the centre of a conflict between members within a Taranaki hapū.
Keenan, 55, was the former project manager of the Ngāmotu Marae construction in New Plymouth. The $4.5 million project would have seen Ngāti Te Whiti, a hapū of Te Atiawa, realise their dreams of having their first spiritual home in 130 years. But the plans have since been scrapped amid allegations of missing money.
Keenan was arrested in June and appeared in New Plymouth District Court charged with theft by a person in a special relationship. His name suppression was lifted yesterday. He has entered no plea.
Keenan’s arrest sparked a heated conflict within Ngāti Te Whiti hapū after ten members took over their trust offices in New Plymouth. They changed all the locks and demanded that the current trustees stand down.
Native Affairs captured the commotion after six police officers tried to diffuse the heated conflict.
Hapū member Peter Capper, who lead the occupation, told Native Affairs the goal of his supporters is to keep the dream of the marae alive, getting a full audit through the legal system and to write a constitution to protect their funds.
But Ngāti Te Whiti Whenua Topu trustee Peter Moeahu told Native Affairs that Capper and his supporters had no right to take over the offices.
"It’s an attempt at a coup d’état. They haven’t gone through any lawful process. They just get up, shouted and carried on and are now demanding that they are the rightful trustees.”
Keenan will appear again in New Plymouth District Court on August 2.