Representatives from the Maori Council and Iwi Leaders Group have met to discuss a common position on water, and Te Arawa's Toby Curtis believes if that is not possible, the groups should go their own way.
There has been tension between the groups but it was brought into sharper focus at King Tuheitia's water summit last month, where resolutions were passed on unity and to establish a group to set a framework with Government on defining water rights.
The hui also wanted individual iwi to hold off any negotiations on water until that happened, and backed a Maori Council court challenge to halt the float of state-owned enterprises if the talks failed.
But Ngati Tuwharetoa paramount chief Sir Tumu te Heuheu, who chairs the Iwi Leaders Group on Freshwater, emphatically told the Crown that his own iwi had given him the mandate to negotiate on its behalf.
Mr Curtis, also a member of the ILG, said Sir Tumu and Ngai Tahu's Mark Solomon had met the Maori Council's Ken Mair and Sir Eddie Durie in the last two weeks. Iwi leaders were yet to receive a report on the meeting.
"My thinking at this stage is: we're looking at common ground and agreeing on things that we find compatible to both of us. Those that we can't find [consensus] on, we'll put to the side ... We both have our distinct little contributions and we must allow each other to continue with ... distinct contributions even if the other group is not receptive."
He described the meeting as exploratory in nature.
"We're just playing it low key at the moment. The last thing we want is for people to get overly excited."
Water claims forced back the Government's programme to sell 49 per cent of Mighty River Power until next year. The Maori Council has said it will go to court over the sale, and the timing of that may hinge on when the Government decides to formally remove the company from the State Owned Enterprises Act.
Further fallout for Mighty River Power yesterday included the resignation of independent director Parekawhia McLean, who is also the chief executive of Waikato-Tainui's administrative arm.
What next for the Mighty River Power sale?
* Government officials considering iwi submissions on Shares Plus consultation.
* Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says the Government doesn't believe in the idea, which was mooted by the Waitangi Tribunal and would give iwi directly affected by the sale a special class of shares.
* Government likely to make a call within weeks on whether Shares Plus is workable.
* If Mighty River share sales are to go ahead, the Cabinet has to make an order in council formally moving the company from the State Owned Enterprises Act to the Public Finance Act, which was passed this year.