Two Māori families whose ancestors lived around the site of Northcote's Hato Petera College 170 years ago have "repossessed" the land.

Kaitaia-based Kotahitanga Aotearoa Movement leader Reti Hohaia Netana Boynton said the group, representing the Peters and Turoa families from the Ngāti Paoa iwi, planned to reopen a school for Māori on the site in line with an original land grant by Governor George Grey to the Catholic Church in 1850.

The Church has asked Education Minister Chris Hipkins to cancel the integration agreement under which it operated a Māori college on the site after the roll dropped this year to just one student.

Hipkins issued an interim decision in June to close the school but gave the commissioner, Lex Hamill, 28 days to respond to the decision.

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That deadline expired in July but a spokeswoman said Hipkins was still consulting on the issue and would now make a decision "at the end of this month or early next month".

Lawrence Peters Rahipere, left, Dre Peters Rahipere and Reti Boynton are occupying the site of Hato Petera College in Northcote. Photo / Brian Platt
Lawrence Peters Rahipere, left, Dre Peters Rahipere and Reti Boynton are occupying the site of Hato Petera College in Northcote. Photo / Brian Platt

The issue is politically delicate given the large Māori caucuses in the governing Labour and NZ First Parties, although Boynton said his Peters family was not related to Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

"It's a different family," he said.

He said his wife, Lisa Peters-Popata, was descended from a Peters family that lived in Raleigh Rd, Northcote, in 1923.

Ngāti Paoa Iwi chairman Gary Thompson said Boynton's group did not represent the whole iwi.

Lawrence Peters Rahipere is part of the group
Lawrence Peters Rahipere is part of the group "repossessing" Hato Petera College. Photo / Brian Platt

"He represents those two families," he said.

Thompson, a former Hato Petera house parent, has told Hipkins and the Catholic Church that the iwi wants to be involved in any decision about the school, but said he had not heard from Hipkins.

The group occupying Hato Petera College is flying the flag of United Tribes adopted in 1834 by 25 chiefs from the Far North. Photo / Brian Platt
The group occupying Hato Petera College is flying the flag of United Tribes adopted in 1834 by 25 chiefs from the Far North. Photo / Brian Platt

Catholic Church spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer said the Church had not tried to remove Boynton's group.

"We understand the school is dealing with it," she said. "It's a free country, people have the right to protest."

But Boynton said the school had closed and there was no one on site except his group, which he said was "about 15 of us".

Posted by Reti Hohaia Netana Boynton on Thursday, 16 August 2018

Posts on his Facebook page show his group pulling sheets of wood off the windows and walls of the college, exposing what appear to be undamaged walls underneath.

"There was no reason to cover them, it's actually put a big cover-up," he said.

The protest group is using the Hato Petera College marae. Photo / Doug Sherring
The protest group is using the Hato Petera College marae. Photo / Doug Sherring

He said his group had access to the college marae, but was using a public toilet in the nearby Northcote shops and asking friends in the area to use their showers.

He said he knew Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis, whose Te Tai Tokerau electorate includes Northcote, but he had not had any contact with Davis over the repossession.