Michael Botur holds a Masters in Creative Writing (AUT University) with a Graduate Diploma in Journalism from Massey University. Since 2011, he has occasionally written for a magazine which unfortunately also publishes theories about an ancient race of pre-Maori white settlers.
PIC: Allan Titford at home, Waikato, Dec 2012, with a photo of his Maunganui Bluff farm. Photo by Mykeljon Winckel, Elocal magazine.
Allan Titford squats on the floor in a puddle of papers. He doesn’t get up as we enter. There’s too much work to do. His skinny legs are folded. His partner, Marcian, brings us cups of instant coffee and a plate of sliced fruit for Allan, who counts diabetes among the things he suffers. The staunch, bearded Pakeha farmer who received mainstream media attention back when the Waitangi Tribunal was controversial is now housebound somewhere south of Te Kuiti, and apparently floorbound. Once Allan farmed 670 hectares of Maunganui Bluff; now he’s not allowed to go back to Northland, he says. Allan’s ex-wife Susan went over to the dark side, and his Pakeha neighbours and former supporters have been bought out, Allan says. Allan sold his farm following 1992’s WAI38 decision, though he says he was forced off the land by his Maori neighbours. Allan’s a full time researcher into Waitangi Tribunal decisions. He’s written a book, Robbery By Deceit. It’s 600 pages long.
It’s 2013. I’m visiting with the editor of Elocal and a Titford supporter to report on the struggle of a man who once toured the country with a roadshow called Treaty 2 U, which promoted an alternative version of the Treaty of Waitangi. According to the ‘Littlewood Treaty’ and its cult, Maori gave all their rights to Queen Victoria. I interview believers; they tell me the truth about cities of stone hidden in the forest near Dargaville, about pyramids and crannogs in the Waikato, and about the red-headed Greeks and Celts who settled our country thousands of years ago and became the patupaiarehe (fairies) of Maori myth.
Allan’s been frustrated since the 1980s. He was offered compensation so his Maunganui Bluff farm could be handed over to Te Roroa. He had a symbolic boundary marker placed on his property, claiming it for Maori. There were fist-fights with his Maori neighbours. Allan befriended Ngapuhi critics of Te Roroa. Allan fought his wife’s father. Police seized the guns Allan kept waving at people. When Allan shoved a duvet in his oven and said The Maoris were trying to burn his family out, his insurance company got suspicious.
Allan doesn’t do small-talk. The day is devoted to poring over boundary surveys from the 1800s and probing the genealogy of Te Roroa conspirators. We discuss Susan turning against her husband. Susan has brainwashed the children against Allan, the men agree.
My editor snaps photographs of a weary, farmless farmer sifting through letters and maps and eating gentle food. His body has been broken, but not his resolve. It’s hard to challenge Allan over any inconsistencies in his story. The Allan Titford story ties in with four years of published stories which criticise and undermine the Waitangi Tribunal. Allan Titford is a martyr to those who feel there is a conspiracy by the Crown to empower Maori at the expense of other citizens.
There are documents everywhere. I pick up one from the coffee table and struggle to comprehend it. It’s 30 stapled pages listing offences Allan is charged with. It turns out the guy is on bail. He has to go to court again shortly for the umpteenth time, he sighs. There’s got to be some mistake – this document says Allan is charged with dozens of rapes, violent beatings and frauds. Allan said he’d been locked up for his beliefs before, but this is something else. Allan is a Christian, a father and a farmer who shared duties and titles with his Maunganui Bluff neighbours. Allan’s one year old bubba crawls into the room, cooing, giggling. He’s a hefty, solid baby who’ll make a great farmer.
There’s a North & South magazine from 1990. The cover story has pictures of a sad Allan and Susan at their kitchen table. North & South’s piece has input from Allan’s Maori neighbours. The reporter doesn’t believe all of Allan’s claims. I read it in a corner while the believers talk.
Marcian interrupts the afternoon with a platter of hot food. It’s only chicken drumsticks, but it’s nice to be served. Marcian Thomas, with her heavy fringe and robotic voice, says Allan’s name in every sentence. We eat on the deck. It’s sunny and still. The gooey baby jiggles in his Jolly Jumper. I’m told I’m not allowed to report the child’s existence – CYF have been monitoring Allan and he’s not legally allowed to have children, or something like that. The details are unclear. All of Allan’s details are unclear.
The sun descends. It’s time to go home. The mood in the car is resolute – everything’s against the Pakeha crusaders, but they won’t give up the fight. They’re persecuted, apprently. They’re underdogs. Ancient Celtic New Zealand writer Martin Doutré spins conspiracy theories. Doutré, American-born, puts on a mocking accent and does Maori impersonations in the front seat while I sit in the back cringing.
When I get home, I have another crack at the story. It’s 2013 and I’ve only just started training as a journalist. I know facts need to be checked. The pile of charges against Allan beggars belief. I ring around the Ministry of Justice. A representative of Whangarei District Court tells me that Allan John Titford is charged with 39 rapes, assaults, frauds and gun crimes. He says he’s worked at the court for 20 years, and he’ll never forget Allan’s name.
I file my Elocal story; it’s dismissed by the disappointed editor. He lets Ross Baker write the story. Baker is head of the One NZ Foundation (and lives in Australia). The pro-Titford story is published instead of mine. The magazine’s cover depicts Allan struggling on. The headline: Gangsters Stole My Land.
On November 20 2013, Allan is jailed for rapes, violent abuse, fraud and perjury. It emerges the man who told me he is banned from Northland has been running for mayor of Far North District Council. 400 people voted for him while he was in remand prison while on trial. One of the few supporters in the public gallery at Allan’s hearing is neighbour Don Harrison. He tells reporters later that Allan’s rape victim is a liar. Allan tells reporters nothing – he’s beginning 24 years in prison, one of the longest sentences ever handed down in this country. Allan’s offending spanned 20 years. Daughter Alyssa tells TVNZ she’s amazed the neighbours never heard her family screaming.
Elocal slams the anti-Allan injustice in a feature story in which Marcian Thomas is interviewed. She tells of tainted evidence against the man she loves.
Former Act Party ‘Iwi vs Kiwi’ publicist John Ansell essays ‘Why I’m Not Deserting Allan Titford’ on his blog TreatyGate. He publishes quotes in which Susan appears to have bribed her children to lie about their father. There’s a medical letter about Allan’s candida and uncircumcised penis, Ansell writes, which made it painful for Allan to have sex. Susan invented her rape complaints, Ansell says, and her family committed the arsons blamed on Allan. Ansell publishes a wedding anniversary card from 1988. “I’m so happy to have you as my husband,” Susan has written on the card. “I will love you always.”
Native Affairs covers the Tall Tales in 2014, interviewing Titford supporters. Reporter Iulia Leilua sits on a boulder crafted by an ancient Celtic Kiwi Columbus, facing away from Doutré as he talks. Elocal hosts Doutré’s video and publishes an open letter challenging Maori TV, co-signed by Monica Matamua. DNA tests have apparently proven Matamua is descended from Ngati Hotu, a lost tribe of fairies.