Five Northlanders facing charges of failing to file tax returns covering almost $1 million claim the District Court has no jurisdiction to hear their case and they have already been cleared of wrongdoing by a Maori native council.

The trial gets underway today of Timothy Meredith, 45, Carol Karl, 50, Andrew Karl, 42, Thomas Brown, 27, and Timothy Craig, 35, who are jointly charged with three charges of knowingly failing to provide information on income tax under the Tax Administration Act and Crimes' Act.

Meredith, Carol Karl and Andrew Karl appeared in the Whangarei District Court yesterday and legal arguments meant their trial could not proceed until this morning.

Warrants are out for the arrest of Craig and Brown who failed to appear yesterday.

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Carol Karl was initially charged with six counts but three counts were withdrawn by Crown prosecutor Kevin Patterson in court yesterday.

The alleged offences were committed between January 2011-July 2013. The total of unpaid tax is estimated to be about $950,000.

The Crown allege while trading under the name Nga Uri o Tupoto, the five knowingly did not provide information on Income Tax and GST returns to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue when required to do so by law.

The group is challenging the District Court's jurisdiction to hear their case, claiming they've been acquitted of wrongdoing by the Ngai Tupoto Native Council in Hokianga, and that its mana superseded that of a court of law.

They handed over a copy of the council's judgment during their first court appearance in April last year.

A kaumatua from Hokianga spoke in court then and said a hui was convened where the case was heard and a decision made.

He said their rangatira court was being subordinated by the District Court through proceedings filed by the IRD.

All are self-represented and refused legal representation until yesterday's appearance when they asked Judge de Ridder time to engage a lawyer. They are presently assisted by a court-appointed amicus curiae.

All were released on bail to re-appear in court this morning. The trial is set down for two weeks.