A Tauranga iwi has urged the Government to step back and let it work through overlapping Treaty claims directly with a Hauraki iwi collective.
Ngāi Te Rangi welcomed new Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Andrew Little on to Whareroa Marae yesterday afternoon to discuss a way forward for the halted Hauraki settlement, which Tauranga iwi say would give Hauraki Maori cultural authority in Tauranga and rights over Tauranga Harbour.
The issue sparked large protests in Tauranga last year. They were suspended when Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said he would not sign a deal with the Hauraki collective until the issues had been worked out.
Yesterday, Ngāi Te Rangi Settlement Trust chairman Charlie Tawhiao said he wanted to start fresh with a new Government and minister.
"[I want to] give them the opportunity to rethink the hole they have dug themselves in which we find ourselves."
He asked Little to set aside the contested areas of redress relating to Tauranga Moana in the Hauraki collective's settlement agreement, so as not to hold up the majority of the settlement.
From there the Crown should step back and let the iwi involved talk and resolve competing claims.
"We ask you to enable and support an iwi-to-iwi tikanga process that allows us to have that conversation," Tawhiao said.
"We see a solution to the problem that doesn't involve court or continuing to destroy our historical relationships. Those relationships have been impaired by a process that pits us against each other."
Little said the suggestions sounded like "as sensible idea" but made no promises.
"Let me take that back to my officials and my people and have a think about it.
"I am determined to find a way through and I know the best way to do that is through korero."
Little said he met Ngati Ranginui in Tauranga a few weeks ago to discuss the issue.
Representatives of some Northland and Auckland iwi that also have issues with Hauraki's settlement travelled to attend yesterday's meeting.
Haydn Edmonds of Ngati Whatua Orakei said the tribe supported Ngai te Rangi's position.
Tawhiao would not rule out further protest, saying there remained "discontent" in the iwi about what some say as Hauraki's attempt to use the settlement process to extend its traditional area into Tauranga Moana.
"Everyone is sitting on the edge of their seat until this is resolved."
Kaumatua Hauata Palmer summed up the mood: "We're small but very determined and very obstinate."