A Wairoa family who were arrested after allegations they failed to comply with Māori Land Court orders have been released with a stern warning from the judge.

On Wednesday, Bruce Smith, along with his wife Ruby, and two daughters Kreslea and Jarna, were taken into custody on High Court Civil Arrest orders on their way to a legal meeting in Napier.

The family had originally said they were not going to leave the property - a 790ha block, known as Waipaoa 5A2.

Bruce, who was arrested separately later in the evening near Ruakituri, appeared by video link from the High Court at Gisborne while the three women appeared in Napier.


Justice Christine Grice, appearing by video link from Wellington, released all four at large but warned them not to go on to Waipaoa 5A2 or they could be charged with contempt of court, Stuff reported.

"This is your last warning and you need to take it seriously," she said.

The family's possessions were being moved from the land on Friday.

Since 2015, the family have been embroiled in disputes over access and occupancy, with various actions taken in the Maori Land Court.

The land, once leased by Bruce Smith's late father Francis Smith, is jointly owned by him and six siblings who hold a 60 per cent share.

The other 40 per cent is owned by more than 500 shareholders, including Smith, in his own name, and administered by Te Tumu Paeroa (the Maori Trustee).

In November 2016, the court ordered Smith and his family to leave the property and remove their possessions within seven days.

The following year, after subsequent applications for re-hearings by Smith proved unsuccessful, the court issued an injunction prohibiting the family from entering or occupying the land.


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

However, just weeks later, the trustee found the Smiths had continued to live at the homestead and had allegedly put a gate across a bridge, blocking access to the land.

Smith's son Cole Smith told Hawke's Bay Today from Australia on Thursday it was a tough time for the family.