The Crown will advertise an amended Tuhoronuku deed of mandate early next month to begin a process which could see terms for negotiating a Ngapuhi Treaty grievance settlement completed by March next year.
Government ministers say Ngapuhi could continue participating in the Waitangi Tribunal's Te Paparahi o Te Raki inquiry next year while negotiating a Treaty settlement - widely expected to match or exceed the $170 million awarded to both Ngai Tahu and Waikato-Tainui.
The mandate advertising move has been welcomed by Tuhoronuku interim chairman Raniera ``Sonny'' Tau, who also chairs Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngapuhi which in 2011 set up Tuhoronuku and its mandating process for direct settlement negotiations with the Crown.
''The Ngapuhi settlement will be the last of the big Treaty settlements, and iwi leaders and Government predict it will have a transformative effect on the struggling Northland economy,'' Mr Tau said yesterday.
But the move has been rejected by leaders of rival group Te Kotahitanga o Nga Hapu Ngapuhi, which wants hapu rather than the runanga to lead settlement negotiations.
They claim Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson is focused on achieving the Government target of settling all Treaty grievances and a Ngapuhi settlement would be a huge prize if it could be pulled off before the 2014 general election.
Te Kotahitanga co-chairman Pita Tipene said his group had worked proactively to be part of the process that would bring about the changes in the Tuhoronuku mandate needed to give confidence and trust to the many Ngapuhi hapu.
''But the Tuhoronuku leaders have ignored our requests and the Crown have aided and abetted their cause. Consequently, the Tuhoronuku deed of mandate remains anti-hapu and Te Kotahitanga remains strongly opposed to it,'' he said.
Mr Tipene is also chairman of Nga Hapu o Te Takutai Moana -an alliance of Bay of Islands hapu - which got turned down when it asked the Government for recognition as a large natural grouping to seek a mandate to enter Treaty settlement negotiations.
Mr Finlayson and Maori Affiars Minister Pita Sharples told Mr Tipene the Crown would not be acting in good faith if they held talks with Takutai Moana while advertising the amended Tuhoronuku mandate.
However, the ministers emphasised that ''moving to advertise the deed of mandate is not recognising a mandate and no decision has been made.''
And they appear to acknowledge settlement negotiations with similar hapu groups have taken place in other parts of the country by offering Mr Tipene the opportunity to discuss the Takutai Moana proposals with Office of Treaty Negotiations officials.
* The Crown intends to advertise an amended Tuhoronuku deed of mandate early next month.
* Public submissions are expected to be sought on the amended deed of mandate by mid-August.
* If ministers decide to recognise the amended deed of mandate, elections for an independent mandated authority could occur between October and December.
* After the elections, the Crown could begin discussions with the independent mandated authority toward the signing of terms of negotiation in the first quarter of 2014.