14 Jun, 2024 05:00 PM4 mins to read

Former rugby player Matua Parkinson has admitted purchasing guns to on-sell, and then faking a burglary to cover his tracks. Photo / Doug Sherring

Matua Parkinson - Figure 1
Photo New Zealand Herald

Former international rugby star Matua Parkinson has admitted purchasing guns to on-sell to someone without a licence, faking a burglary and then making a false insurance claim - but his lawyer is blaming his “stupidity” on head knocks suffered during his career.

Parkinson has admitted travelling to Auckland in June 2022 where he paid $10,488 in cash for five Alfa Carbine rifles of varying calibres and $450 cash for parts from two Gun City stores. He then passed them on to an unlicensed person.

But, the 48-year-old’s offending didn’t end there.

Four months later he reported them stolen, claiming his entire gun safe that was bolted to the floor of a shipping container on his Western Bay of Plenty property had been ripped out.

Parkinson made an insurance claim for the stolen safe, five guns and 40 rounds of ammunition, which he was paid out for, but ESR analysis found that the “new” safe he purchased was actually the “stolen” one, with analysis revealing it had never been ripped out of the floor.

During a hearing ahead of Parkinson entering guilty pleas at the Tauranga District Court on Tuesday, Judge Louis Bidois questioned his behaviour.

“Who in their right mind is going to make an insurance claim for a stolen safe and then use the safe?

Matua Parkinson - Figure 2
Photo New Zealand Herald

“Things aren’t going right for Mr Parkinson in his head, that’s for sure, something’s gone wrong.”

Defence lawyer David Pawson said Parkinson had played more than 700 games of rugby and quite a “large portion of those in the black jersey”, referring to his time in the Māori All Blacks.

“He’s taken quite a few knocks to the head over the years and this is clearly not a person who is thinking about what he’s doing.”

The judge asked what evidence there was that his thinking in relation to the offending had been affected by what happened to him on the rugby field.

Pawson said further information could be given on that topic before Parkinson is sentenced, and suggested that a cultural report might also provide some helpful background given his upbringing on the East Coast.

However, Judge Bidois said a “cultural report won’t help him”.

“He had an upbringing like many of the Māori boys down there, but he’s been able to rise above that. He’s become an All Black, he’s run a business in the Mount, he’s had jobs ...”

Fall from grace

He said it was “almost unbelievable” to see the fall from grace.

Matua Parkinson's lawyer told the judge the many "knocks to the head" he received during his rugby career may have impacted his thinking in relation to firearms offending.

The judge said there clearly had been premeditation as Parkinson had gone to Auckland with cash and purchased the rifles, quite deliberately, knowing the person he was going to pass them on to was unlicensed.

Matua Parkinson - Figure 3
Photo New Zealand Herald

Pawson said Parkinson wouldn’t mind him saying that it was more “stupidity than sinister” and would “give the shirt off his back for anybody”.

The judge said that might be the case, but when dealing with firearms “in this day and age, the community takes a pretty harsh approach”.

“How many guns do you need, why would this other person want five guns and not one?”

Pawson replied that the Alfa Carbine was a “good pig hunting rifle”, and said that the lower-calibre rifles were good for little more than farming.

The judge replied that “any gun is effective when it’s used in a hold-up or aggravated robbery”.

Parkinson is best known for his sporting accolades including representing the Māori All Blacks, captaining the world champion New Zealand Sevens team, playing for the Auckland Blues, North Harbour, Sanix in Japan and the Bay of Plenty Steamers as well as playing in the NRL for Canterbury Bulldogs.

He has held many community positions, including formerly on the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.

Parkinson was the co-owner of Creme bar in Mount Maunganui for seven years before it closed in 2008.

He has been a television personality, fronting a Sky TV travel show, Lost in France, alongside Carlos Spencer, and Maori Television’s Hunting Aotearoa.

Parkinson will be sentenced next month.

Hannah Bartlett is a Tauranga-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She previously covered court and local government for the Nelson Mail, and before that was a radio reporter at Newstalk ZB.

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