Five years ago, law graduate Pania Newton and her cousins got together around a kitchen table and agreed to do everything in their power to prevent a housing development on a south Auckland site that is considered sacred by local Maori.

Newton, now 29, is today leading thousands of protesters occupying the land at Ihumatao, one of a number of grassroots movements spearheaded by young, educated and tech-savvy Maori women.

Using social media and crowd-funding websites, the groups are mobilizing community support to demand land rights and other reforms for Maori in the highest-profile indigenous rights campaigns in more than a decade.