Niue Premier Young Vivian used a visit by Governor-General Anand Satyanand yesterday to send a message to Niuean New Zealanders - use your land or lose it.
In a speech yesterday Mr Vivian warned that expatriate Niueans who did not keep in contact with their roots could lose their land.
"If you ignore it for too long you could lose some hereditary title," he said.
In a later interview with NZPA, Mr Vivian questioned why expatriates in New Zealand needed the land if they were not using it.
"If you go away for 40 years how are you going to [identify your land], how are you going to prove it?" he asked.
Niue is struggling with population loss - it has only about 1600 inhabitants - and Mr Vivian is trying to use land to lure more Niueans living in New Zealand and Australia home. There are over 20,000 Niueans in New Zealand.
Mr Vivian said people did not realise they were already losing land by not being involved.
"People are taking over land that is not theirs and throughout the years you can have occupation rights. If you've been working on that land for 30 years it is yours."
Last October Mr Vivian suspended land court hearings after one involving former premier Sonni Lakatani split the community and saw some violence.
The hearings were costly - $5000 each, which included a judge coming from New Zealand - and split families and communities. Mr Vivian said land commissioners were pressured in a community where everyone knows each other.
"They became victimised - you're related to someone, you're friends with someone, you drink with someone ... It's a small community and every time you have a land settlement you are in trouble - like Sonni."
Mr Vivian said there had been no complaints about his drastic action to stop the hearings and it was up to families to sort out land ownership.
Most land is untitled and when it is, titles are for immediate families.
"I'm telling families to get themselves together and sort themselves out. Don't waste Government money by having court cases where brothers and sisters are arguing amongst themselves."