27 May 2019

Family occupying land told to leave or face arrest

5:51 pm on 27 May 2019

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

18072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Wellington High Court.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

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 himself and six siblings. The siblings owned 60 percent of the 790 hectare block and the other 40 percent was owned by the more 500 shareholders, administered by Te Tumu Paeroa, the Maori trustee.

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

The court ruled Bruce Smith's family should vacate the land in November 2016.

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.

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