Thai nationals hoping to get New Zealand residency say they went through an "adoption ceremony" in a Northland church where they repeated a Maori chant.

John Hikuwai, 52, of Wainui Bay in Northland, faces six charges under immigration legislation and two of false pretences for selling false work permits to Thai nationals.

Hikuwai is known for challenging fishing regulations under the banner of the Confederation of Chiefs of the United Tribes of Aotearoa in the late 1990s.

The Crown alleges Hikuwai sold false work permits for $500 and completed and submitted refugee application forms which were allegedly altered after the applicants completed them.

Yesterday Nongnuch Reungsakul told Judge Lindsay Moore she and her husband Thaen Charoenphan met Hikuwai through an Auckland Thai temple after two failed attempts to get refugee status.

They travelled to Northland where they met Hikuwai who took them to a church where she said they were to undergo an adoption ceremony.

"I was told this was an adoption ceremony and also a Maori saying or chanting," Mrs Reungsakul said.

She said she was told it was part of Maori regulation and would mean she and her husband belonged to Maori, which would make their applications more acceptable.

She said they paid $4000 to Hikuwai to pay for what she called temporary custody or adoption orders which were issued by the Maori Government.

She said they also paid Hikuwai $500 for work permits, which she understood were the same as the New Zealand Government saying they could work here.

Under cross-examination by defence counsel Lester Cordwell, she said two previous applications for refugee status they made had been refused.

She said that was when Hikuwai offered them the adoption.