A Wairoa family has vowed to continue to fight to stay on land they believe is "rightfully" theirs, despite the High Court ruling that police can break down their doors and arrest them in a week's time.

Bruce Smith, along with his wife Ruby, and their three children, Kreslea, Jarna and Cole, originally had until yesterday to leave the 790-hectare block near Wairoa, known as Waipaoa 5A2, or the court would issue an arrest warrant, giving the police the power to break into the house to arrest the family.

But at a hearing at the High Court in Wellington yesterday , Justice Christine Grice refused to stop the arrest warrant - and instead gave the family until June 4 to seek legal advice and to leave the land before further arrest warrants were issued.

The land, once leased by Bruce's late father Francis Smith, is now jointly owned by he and six siblings who hold a 60 per cent share.

Advertisement

The other 40 per cent is owned by more than 500 shareholders, including Bruce Smith, in his own name, and administered by Te Tumu Paeroa (the Māori Trustee).

Access to the land can be gained via the Ngapakira Bridge. Photo / Google Maps
Access to the land can be gained via the Ngapakira Bridge. Photo / Google Maps

In 2015, a family dispute saw four of Bruce Smith's brothers take a case to the Māori Land Court to get him to allow them access on to the farm, and a share of the decision-making. It followed a decision by the trustee to put the lease out to tender.

In November 2016, the court had ordered that Bruce and his family remove themselves and their possessions from the property within seven days.

The following year, after subsequent applications for re-hearings by Bruce proved unsuccessful, the court issued an injunction prohibiting the family from entering or occupying the land.

The Māori Land Court removed Bruce Smith as a trustee of the estate and removed him as a director in 2017.

However, just weeks later, the trustee found the Smiths had continued to live at the homestead - and had even put a gate across a bridge, blocking access to the land.

The situation deteriorated when the Trustee was countered with a trespass order from the Smiths that was to stop Māori Trustee staff going to the property.

Cole, who is based in the Gold Coast, said the ongoing five-year ordeal had taken a "massive toll" on his family.

Advertisement

"My father's lived there all his life, and he came back to save the farm. He dropped everything too when we were young, so that's a good 30 years ago, and now the farm is going well and debt-free," Cole said.

The Smiths say it's the only land they feel
The Smiths say it's the only land they feel "safe" on. Photo / Supplied

He says they have had to "defend" themselves on their own.

As a result, his two sisters have had to give up their careers "to help Dad".

"It's very stressful. The people that we're going against are very well connected.

"The family works pretty hard, so everybody's just trying to pull in what ever they can to keep it going to try and save it."

Cole says his family have been "victimised by the police" and only feel "safe" on that piece of land.

He agreed that they had blocked access on the bridge, but maintained it was to prevent poachers.

"Our family helped build that bridge and paid for that bridge too so we have the right to lock that. It was more of a safety thing."

The Trustee, Te Tumu Paeroa, declined to comment on Monday.