Resistance to a million dollar price tag has held up negotiations to vest ownership of a prime stretch of Tauranga's downtown waterfront with the city council and a Maori trust.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed by the council and Otamataha Trust in 2010 secured a 50/50 ownership and management deal for the 3400sq m strip of land on the seaward side of Dive Cres - from the boundary of Trinity Wharf hotel to Bobby's Fresh Fish Market.

The agreement evolved out of various efforts to assert ownership to the land following the legal quagmire when it was discovered that no one held title to the reclaimed waterfront.

It allowed an application to be lodged with the Department of Conservation seeking joint ownership and management of the land - the land automatically became a Crown holding when it was discovered no title existed.

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The Otamataha Trust was already a major landholder in the area. In 2014 the New Zealand Mission Trust transferred the Mission Cemetery and the land under Trinity Wharf to the Otamataha Trust which represented the hapu of Ngati Tapu and Ngai Tamarawaho.

Tauranga's former Mayor Stuart Crosby said he was told at his last meeting on the issue early last year that the Crown wanted a significant amount of money for the land. ''From memory it was over $1 million.''

He was disappointed that negotiations to issue the title had taken so long because it was holding up the future planning and investment in Dive Cres.

''The council and the trust want to make decisions on the land. It is a critical element of the CBD and is part of the bridge to bridge waterfront area.''

Consent had been issued for a walkway to be built along the front of the Cargo Shed, with options to upgrade moorings and build a new unloading wharf for Tauranga's independent fishermen. ''Activity brings vibrancy.''

Peri Kohu (Ngai Tamarawaho) said his understanding was that negotiations were still going through the motions of valuations.

''In my opinion they should give it back. The land had no title, so what is the Crown going on about ... We have been here a long time ... it's more important than the Crown's $1 million valuation. We should be able to stand on our land and say we actually own it.''

Mr Kohu said the council and the trust were looking for a win-win situation.

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A copy of the Memorandum of Understanding was obtained by retired Mount Maunganui lawyer Rob Paterson.

The memorandum stated that if the application to the Department of Conservation was successful, Ngati Tapu and Ngai Tamarawaho would not pursue its Treaty of Waitangi claim to have the Dive Cres land returned to them.

Mr Paterson said the lack of title had frustrated plans for a fisherman's wharf-style development along Dive Cres, with the option to create more room by shifting the road across to the railway line along the length of Dive Cres.

It was the perfect place for a fisherman's wharf because the buildings would not block views shafts like they would along The Strand waterfront, he said

Mr Paterson said the council should be explaining the rationale and justification for the Memorandum of Understanding to Tauranga residents. ''The general public knows very little about the agreement and its implications.''

Council communications adviser Marcel Currin said discussions between the council and the Crown relating to the issuing of title for the land were ongoing. ''We are keen to resolve this as early as possible, hopefully within the next 2-3 months.''

The council owns the buildings and infrastructure on the land.