Far North Holdings says sovereignty claims by Ngāpuhi protesters occupying private land earmarked for housing development in Ōpua are matters for the Crown to address.
A group of about 20 people have been occupying a headland known to local Māori as Puketiti, on Kellet St in Ōpua, since Saturday, which they say is wāhi tapu.
The site was also the home of Te Roroa rangatira, Pumuka, who was killed at the battle of Kororāreka in 1845, and the hapū have called for a pou to be established on the site.
Te Roroa hapu spokesman Tony Williams said the protesters wouldn't leave until the land in question was returned to his hapū.
In March, Far North Holdings sold the 3ha site to a private developer which intends to build 17 houses.
Locals have set up the group Save Ōpua's Soul (SOS) to protect what they say is one of the last remaining flat pieces of unused land in the area.
But Far North Holdings chief executive Andy Nock said the company was aware objectors to this development were alleging the land was subject to Waitangi Tribunal
Treaty Claims process.
The most recent was made by Sir James Henare, who calls for control of the whenua to be returned to Ngāpuhi, and for all resource consents from April 1987 to be rescinded.
"The company acknowledges and respects the claims made by Sir James Henare in relation to foreshore and seabed, but these are matters for the Crown to address," Nock said.
No feedback was received when FNH publicised within the community its plans to apply for resource consent, and invited input, Nock said.
"As for the development itself, it falls within the residential zone of the District Plan. It is much lower-density than permissible and will provide new accommodation options for people who want to live and work in Ōpua, supporting growth of local businesses and the local economy.
"The consented plans is for 17 house sites. We could have sought a higher, apartment-style development but we did not feel it was in keeping with Ōpua. Instead, the plans are for a low-density residential scheme in line with the approved District plan, within an established residential area."
Nock said land use could not be in question here as it had previously been developed for housing.
The titles for the land, he said, were just like those of the adjoining school or any of the other Ōpua residential titles – general title with no claim attached.
He said the sale of FNH land was done legally and no tenders were sought to be called as it was a private sale.
"As things stand now, Far North Holdings is neither the owner of this land, nor the developer. The company are only the project manager for the infrastructure."
SOS has created a Givealittle page to help pay for its fight to stop the development.
Since learning of the sale, SOS said it had written to the Overseas Investment Office, the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman, but without any success.
"Members of the group have paid for two legal opinions out of their own pockets to the tune of around $12,000 to ascertain the community's ability to challenge the actions of the Far North District Council and Far North Holdings to provide a way forward in securing access and ownership of this important public area for the residents of Opua."