A proposal to bar Maori not registered on the Maori electoral roll from accessing money from tribal lands and settlements was yesterday put to a hui to create a pan-tribal Maori assembly.
A national Maori general assembly would speak for all Maori on national issues.
Northland leader Jim Perry, one of four key speakers at the event, said the ban would ensure numbers on the Maori roll increased, allowing tangata whenua to have greater influence and more seats in Parliament.
Around 170,000 of the 400,000 Maori were enrolled on the general roll at the last election. This year the option to change, which comes up every five years, is available.
Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau said a national Maori assembly was long overdue.
Maori issues had dominated political debate before the last election, and Maori were not in a position to respond as a group.
He said that too often Maori were forced to endure fallout from statements and acts by groups who claimed to represent Maori.
"This is not a political group. It is a reputable body providing a Maori voice, representing all Maori."
Around 200 people turned out for the forum that Mr Tau said attracted representatives from throughout the country, including from major tribes such as Tuwharetoa, Ngai Tahu, Ngati Porou and Te Arawa.
He said the nature and structure of the organisation were yet to be decided, but hui were planned throughout the country this year to ensure buy-in from other iwi and to debate the assembly's makeup.
Mr Tau said it had attracted funding, and representatives of calibre who would ensure it moved beyond talks. He declined to say where the money would come from.
Last week, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters criticised the hui and the involvement of the Maori Party.
Hone Harawira, the Maori Party MP for Te Tai Tokerau, chaired the meeting and party president Whatarangi Winiata was among four key speakers.
Te Tii Marae spokesman Kingi Taurua accepted yesterday there had been some agreement with Mr Peters among the tribe. He said changes were planned for next year's event to ensure the impression of Maori Party influence was not repeated.
Hui organiser Mike Smith said the hui was not organised by the Maori Party, and Mr Harawira was a late inclusion to the group.
The meeting attracted criticism that it was a move to set up a Maori parliament that was equal to, and had the same powers as, Parliament in Wellington.
Mr Tau said it was not a separate parliament, but was geared to ensuring Maori had greater influence within existing structures.
He said the Maori Party was not supported by all Maori which was why leaders decided a national non-political movement should be created to ensure all are represented rather than just those with Maori Party membership.
"Over the last two political terms Labour have shown a level of arrogance towards Maori. We have seen legislative changes affecting Maori, including the Foreshore and Seabed Act. The Government says they have talked to Maori when they have not. This assembly will ensure they talk to a group who represents Maori."
Mr Tau conceded issues raised at the meeting included a demand by hapu, or subtribes, that they have representation on any new body.
He said Ngapuhi alone had more than 300 hapu, and the numbers involved would make such an assembly unwieldy.
Labour list MP Shane Jones, however, has rubbished the plan, labelling it a subversive attempt by the Maori Party to push an old and unpopular idea of a separate Maori parliament. "It is perverse that now the Maori Party have arrived in Parliament they now want to set up their own parliament."
He said Maori would never embrace such a concept, with Maoridom already heaving under the burden of too many forums.
Maori needed forward thinkers and speakers, rather than outdated ideas, Mr Jones said. The Maori Party needed to prove itself in Parliament before looking to form other forums.By Jon Stokes Email Jon