Iwi members upset at their trust's plans to sell its Wellington waterfront property to developers have occupied the land and plan to spend the night there.
Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust bought the land for $13 million in 2008 after a treaty settlement, but trustees say it has been a drain on the iwi ever since and they want to sell it.
Trust member Andrew Mepham said only 19 percent of the trust's 18,000 members have had the chance to vote and he is angry with the lack of democracy.
He was outraged the trustees had talked about the sale as a 'done-deal'.
Not everyone had had their say and the process had been rushed through the system over the holiday period, he said.
Catherine Love, who is one of the landowners protesting, said she fought for the Treaty settlement and the land held a lot of cultural significance.
"To sell this land to private developers and overseas interests would be something that our mokopuna would rightfully not forgive us for."
Ms Love said they needed to look at more community-friendly and socially responsible development options for the land.
The group erected pouwhenua, or wooden posts, on the land today, which symbolised land, democracy and guardianship.
About 40 protesters planned to stay on the land overnight in an effort to get the trustees' attention.
Two trust board members visited the protesters today.
Holden Hohaia said he was pleased he went along to listen to what the people had to say.
"From today it is quite clear there is a real concern about the process and I don't think we've done enough to inform our people, I think we could have done a lot better in that regard.
"The other thing I'm quite keen to see is a reassurance from the leadership that there is an intention to re-invest in land in Wellington."
The Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust was set up in 2008 to manage the $25 million treaty settlement paid to Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika, which represents the iwi living in the Wellington harbour area when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840.
The iwi has just $17.5 million left.
The value of Shelly Bay is $9.85 million, which is more half the iwi's asset base, which means it needs the backing of the people to go ahead.
Shelly Bay was purchased as a commercial investment by former trustees with the hope of a joint venture with Sir Peter Jackson, which never went ahead.
Two consultation hui are being held later this month followed by a vote. The results will be announced in early February.