"Feed the people not your pockets" is one of the key messages Ngāpuhi protesters want rūnanga leadership to hear.
About 60 adults and 15 children took part in a peaceful protest in Kaikohe yesterday, calling for a change in leadership at Ngāpuhi.
The 30-minute hīkoi, or march, began at the RSA on Broadway at 11am and finished at the offices of Te Rūnanga-ā-iwi o Ngāpuhi.
It was supposed to coincide with a six-weekly rūnanga (tribal council) board meeting at the tribe's headquarters but that meeting was moved to law firm Chapman Tripp's offices in Auckland.
The event was organised by a group called Ngāpuhi Taniwharau, the 100 Taniwha of Ngāpuhi.
Spokeswoman Moana Tuwhare said there were 10 or 20 people standing behind every person who attended in support of the kaupapa (issue).
"This is the first of the actions; there will be another hīkoi organised."
At issue was the fact the rūnanga received dividends of $2.6 million but only gave about 11 per cent back to the people through scholarships and hapu development funding.
Ngāpuhi had high levels of poverty, homelessness and imprisonment, Tuwhare said.
The group was also gravely concerned the rūnanga had still not settled its Treaty of Waitangi claim, despite decades and millions of dollars to do so.
Another organiser, Dion Akuhata, said he was most concerned about the environment and fish stocks, which were both in peril.
"I've been a fisherman all my life. I've watched species go from healthy to being put on the endangered list," he said.
Yesterday, the rūnanga was not answering phone calls.
However, in a media statement, the Board of Trustees said it was resolute it was fit for purpose to lead Ngāpuhi. It cited growth in its assets from $53 million in 2016 to $56 million in 2017.
At the board's June meeting, Ngāpuhi Taniwharau were offered an opportunity to share their concerns, said chairman Raniera (Sonny) Tau.
"The board acknowledges that peaceful protest is a vital part of a democratic society.
"However, there is a balance needed between the right to protest and the right to go about ones' lawful business without disruption to one's place of work," he said.
Tau said the board was aware some want a change of leadership.
"There is a democratic, open and transparent process to enable that, as outlined in the our Trust Deed. Anyone of Ngāpuhi descent may put their names forward for consideration," he said.