Far North Mayor John Carter will visit a Maori occupation at Kaitaia Airport this afternoon in a bid to talk protesters into allowing flights to resume.
Activists moved onto land at Kaitaia Airport at about lunchtime today, taking control of the entrance and cancelling flights into and out of the Far North.
Action leader Wi Popata, of Ngati Kahu, said the occupation was a protest against a $100 million Treaty of Waitangi settlement, due to be ratified this week.
The Te Hiku Claims Settlement Bill is due for its third and final reading in Parliament tomorrow and includes the settlements of four of five Muriwhenua iwi - Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Te Rarawa and Ngati Kuri. Ngati Kahu is the only Te Hiku iwi to not yet settle.
Mr Carter said the closure of air services into and out of Kaitaia was an "unfortunate aspect" of the occupation.
"We've been happy to sit down and talk with the iwi involved all along and that continues to be the case," he said.
Mr Carter said the Far North District Council had planned to meet with both affected iwi, even those who hadn't settled with Crown, to discuss what would happen with the airport land.
"The best way forward is ongoing discussion, that was our stance up until this happened, and it still is."
About 50 people gathered at the Oturu Marae earlier this morning, before walking to the occupation site with fence posts and corrugated iron to begin constructing a new marae.
By early afternoon, their numbers had swelled to about 80 and Wi Popata said he expected more people to join the occupation over the coming hours.
The protesters went to the front desk of the airport and informed Barrier Air pilot Sam Bowering they were taking over the facility.
He had been planning to fly out at 2pm, he said.
"We'll just be carrying on as normal," he said.
"We haven't heard anything other than that."
The operators of the airport locked the terminal building as the protesters gathered outside to hear speeches in the carpark.
One of the occupation organisers Hone Popata said they would be occupying land beside the airport terminal, and all air operations would be closed.
"We are in charge now," he said.
The occupiers wanted to meet with Treaty Settlement Minister Chris Finlayson, and Far North Mayor John Carter.
"They have failed on everything to respect the mana whenua of Ngati Kahu," Mr Popata said.
"The last time we heard from Chris Finlayson he told Ngati Kahu to go to hell. Well, we're here to fight and to take back our land."
By early afternoon, police asked the occupiers to allow the airport company Far North Holdings to retrieve a Barrier Air craft and a fuel truck.
This was agreed to. "It's only a plane," one woman said.
"We want our land."
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson says he has no wish to meet Ngati Kahu protestors
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said he had "no intention" of meeting with the protesters.
He denied occupation organiser Hone Popata's claim that he told Ngati Kahu to "go to hell".
"It had nothing to do with Ngati Kahu. That's garbage.
"I told some people who were occupying a beach up there during the foreshore and seabed [protest of 2010] that they should go to hell but that was years ago. It had nothing to do with the treaty settlement."
He said the protest was a performance and undermined all the hard work and negotiations undertaken by iwi so far.
A meeting with the protesters would be a "waste of time", Mr Finalyson said.
"I have no intention of meeting with [the protesters].
"I'll meet with Ngati Kahu anytime but the reality of the matter is until there is a change of leadership up there...it's not going to go anywhere. And I'm not wasting my time with them."
Wi Popata said the airport land was significant to three hapu of Ngati Kahu - Patukoraha, Ngai Tohianga and Ngai Takoto.
He said the land included boundaries which were important to the hapu and there were two urupa, or cemeteries, in the area.
A statement issued by Matenga-Erstich whanau, Patukoraha and Ngai Tohianga hapu of Ngati Kahu of Te Hiku o Te Ika (the Far North) said the owners were "repossessing" their lands.
"The government took the land from Kataraina Matenga in the 1940s and is now attempting to sell it to a neighbouring iwi," the statement said.
The government took the land in the early 1940s as part of its World War II effort, promising to return it at the end of the war. They have refused to do that despite extensive negotiations.
The Erstich whanau has been asking and waiting patiently for over 70 years.
The government decision to sell the stolen properties has resulted in the family taking the only recourse available to them which is, repossessing their lands."