Rival Ngapuhi factions have until next Friday to respond to Government proposals to end the impasse regarding settling the tribe's Treaty grievance claims.
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples wrote to Tuhoronuku and Te Kotahitanga leaders on Wednesday to say the dispute between the two groups was beginning to appear to be as much about personalities and distrust as about issues of substance.
"The seeming unwillingness of both parties to step back from what might be characterised as entrenched positions needs to end," the ministers said.
"We think the parties have a duty as Ngapuhi leaders to co-operate to resolve these issues."
Tuhoronuku, a sub-committee of Te Runanga a iwi o Ngapuhi, is seeking direct Treaty settlement negotiations with the Crown.
Hapu-based Te Kotahitanga wants Ngapuhi Treaty claims heard after the Waitangi Tribunal completes stage two of its Te Paparahi o Te Raki inquiry.
With 122,214 Ngapuhi recorded in the 2006 census, the tribe is the largest in the country. Its Treaty settlement could exceed the $170 million received by Ngai Tahu and Tainui-Waikato.
The letter from the two ministers said the participation rate and outcome of the Tuhoronuku mandate ballot last year came within the range of mandate results previously recognised by the Crown.
Te Kotahitanga concerns about the ballot led to a joint working group being set up to seek a united Ngapuhi settlement process, but the ministers said it would not proceed because Te Kotahitanga last month decided not to participate in a process to amend the deed of mandate.
Dealing with Te Kotahitanga concerns over the composition of a post-settlement governance entity, which would control the cash and other assets coming with the tribe's Treaty settlement, the ministers said the runanga should have one representative among the 22 members proposed for a new mandated entity expanding on a Tuhoronuku model.
The ministers proposed amending the deed of mandate to separate Tuhoronuku from the runanga.
Increasing the number of hapu positions on the mandated entity from the seven proposed to 15, the inclusion of four urban positions and two for kuia/kaumatua would ensure Ngapuhi hapu would be heard, the ministers said. Although the Crown had never required criminal record checks for election candidates, options to exclude bankrupts and people convicted of dishonesty were suggested.
Comment on these options and other representative structure and election proposals were sought by December 7.
The ministers said they would advise Ngapuhi of their decisions.
There was no indication of what would happen if the two tribal groups didn't co-operate as the ministers suggested.