A Ngapuhi runanga has suspended a hapu that tried to divorce itself from the organisation in an unsuccessful court battle this year.
It marks a low point in Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngapuhi's history and is a decision that could have a multimillion-dollar cost to the organisation, which has assets worth $39.5 million, built for the most part on fisheries.
Runanga chairman Sonny Tau said Ngati Hine had failed to comply with criteria for selecting their board representative despite being granted extra time.
"This decision was not taken lightly. Our process is democratic and robust. If Ngati Hine's appointment of their representative meets the requirements of the constitution, they're back sitting at the board table."
He said the runanga had an election process that all groups had to respect. To do otherwise would expose it to possible litigation and send mixed messages to Ngapuhi beneficiaries.
In October, Te Runanga o Ngati Hine asked the Maori Land Court to let it withdraw from the runanga. This followed tensions over the Ngapuhi runanga's proposal to negotiate a Treaty settlement with the Crown.
Fisheries legislation passed in 2004 allowed Ngati Hine to withdraw from the runanga with the possibility of taking its assets with it.
The court ruled it didn't have the jurisdiction to hear parts of Ngati Hine's claim.
Yesterday, Ngati Hine spokesman Waihoroi Shortland said it was "absolutely" plain it wanted to leave before suspension.
"I invited them to allow us to withdraw completely rather than suspend us and to allow us to do that with dignity rather than being whipped like some errant dog."
The hapu may need to go to court again to officially leave the runanga.