A Ngapuhi leader is criticising the Northland land occupation by two men who attacked Prime Minister John Key at Waitangi last year.

David Rankin says the land at Taipa in the Far North was controlled by Hone Heke and his hapu, Matarahurahu, in the 1800s and members of the hapu still live there.

Mr Rankin says the protesters, John and Wikatana Popata, have no connection with the land in question and no mana whenua status.

"My biggest concern is that these young men are actually being manipulated by the leaders of the area. I feel that that they're putting these men at risk of building up a very large criminal record."

Mr Rankin says Ngapuhi's leaders should be encouraging the Popata brothers to get an education or seek employment, rather than cause trouble.