Far North locals continue hīkoi opposing planned restrictions as council halts significant natural area proposal

A policy dubbed a "modern-day land grab" is on ice after a high-powered meeting at Parliament on Thursday. 

Residents in the Far North say their private land rights are under threat because the council is trying to designate their property as a significant natural area (SNA).

A hīkoi to protest the establishment of these areas started at dawn at Te Rerenga Wairua, Cape Reinga, where Far North residents marched along State Highway 1.

The Far North District Council has sent around 8000 letters to explain to residents that up to 100 percent of their private property will be considered an SNA. 

Hinerangi Himiona is organising the hīkoi and says she's angry no one was consulted before the letters were sent. 

"We shouldn't have to do this, we should be better than this 200 years on into our relationship," she tells Newshub.

The mapping designates areas of environmental significance and will put heavy restrictions on what can be done with the land in the future. 

That includes Himiona's hapu. The entirety of their whenua, including a native forest, will be considered an SNA. 

"Which means a whole lot more red tape to go through if we want to do anything on our land and we're really not happy about that," she adds.

Most of Northland is being mapped for these SNAs, but it's been met with particular opposition in the Far North because a whopping 42 percent of the district is considered to have high ecological value. 

Ngā Puhi has estimated 48 percent of all whenua Māori in the district will be covered.

Himiona says Māori understand better than most the importance of looking after the land. 

"It's extremely special in terms of its biodiversity, we know that. And we will care for it. We don't need a heavy hand to come over the top and tell us how to care for our whenua."

Far North District Mayor John Carter has heard the calls and travelled to Wellington on Thursday to meet with Associate Minister for the Environment James Shaw. 

The pair agreed to press pause and reset on the issue. 

"As a consequence, they've stood up and said taiho, we are addressing it and I think we're going to come out with a really good outcome," Carter says.

But that isn't enough to stop the hīkoi. 

After a hard day's mahi, the group will combine with hundreds of farmers, concerned residents, and iwi from all across the district to send the strongest, loudest possible message to the Far North District Council in Kaikohe on Friday.