Family occupying Māori land told to leave or face arrest

A Wairoa family illegally occupying a block of Māori-owned land has been given one more week to leave or face arrest.

Bruce Smith and his wife Ruby, with their three children, had until today to leave the land or the Māori Land Court would issue arrest warrants.

The land, once leased by Mr Smith's late father Francis Smith, was now jointly owned by he and six siblings.

The siblings owned 60 per cent of the 790 hectare block and the other 40 per cent was owned by the more 500 shareholders, administered by Te Tumu Paeroa, the Māori trustee.

The Smith family had until today to leave the land or the court would issue an arrest warrant, giving the police the power to break open doors or windows to arrest the family.

But at a hearing at the High Court in Wellington this morning, Justice Grice gave the family until June 4 to seek legal advice and to leave the land before arrest warrants were issued.

Four Smith brothers took a case to the Māori Land Court back in 2015 to get their brother Bruce to allow them access onto the family farm, and a share of the decision-making.

Bruce Smith had the view that he was the kaitiaki or guardian of the land on behalf of his parents, even though all seven children had equal shares in the land.

The Māori Land Court removed Bruce Smith as a trustee of the estate and removed him as a director in 2017.

A file image of a courtroom coat of arms.
A file image of a courtroom coat of arms. Source: 1 NEWS