Rival Ngapuhi factions have both expressed willingness to move forward following ministerial advice to resolve issues delaying negotiations over the tribe's expected $170 million-plus Treaty grievance settlement.
Both the hapu-based Te Kotahitanga group and the Ngapuhi Runanga sub-committee Tuhoronuku responded to a letter they received late last month from Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples saying the dispute between the two groups needed to end.
And a trio of top Office of Treaty Settlements officials - acting director Kevin Kelly, deputy director Andrew McConnell and negotiation and settlement manager Maureen Hickey - came to the North last week to assess how progress was being made.
Mr Kelly is a Canadian who came to New Zealand in 1986, studied law at Victoria University and has worked in the public service for about 20 years. He is filling the role held for the past 18 months by Peter Galvin, who has been seconded for other Justice Ministry work.
After a meeting in Whangarei last week, Te Kotahitanga co-chairman Pita Tipene wrote to tell Mr Kelly: "We felt you 'heard and understood' our viewpoints. This was made clear to us when both you and Andrew reflected back to us our key issues in your summarising statements.
"This aspect of the meeting was critical to us given the sensitive nature of the discussions being held around the Ngapuhi settlement process."
Mr Tipene said that Mr Kelly had referred to a "principled" approach to the settlement process and had helped outline what some of those principles would be.
"We think that those principles, if agreed to by Tuhoronuku, would provide a stable platform in which to advance further proactive talks and that would ultimately lead to an expeditious agreement," Mr Tipene said.
Tuhoronuku hapu kaikorero facilitator Kipa Munro said his group agreed in principle with proposals put forward by ministers Finlayson and Sharples, including reducing the number of runanga representatives on the planned Independent Mandated Authority from two to one.
Mr McConnell had met with Tuhoronuku after the meeting with Te Kotahitanga to ensure the ministry had all the information it needed.
"At present we have provided everything requested by the minister and are now awaiting his response," Mr Munro said. "We offered the minister's office assistance in moving Ngapuhi forward and our offer was accepted."