A Ngāi Te Rangi leader says Andrew Little's decision to further delay signing the disputed Pare Hauraki Treaty settlement is a positive step but not a breakthrough.
Pare Hauraki's spokesman has, however, accused Ngāi Te Rangi of "bully boy tactics", saying the collective would not allow its settlement to be held up any longer.
The Treaty Negotiations Minister announced on Sunday he had decided to hold off signing the settlement after seeing promising signs of dialogue starting between Hauraki and Tauranga Moana iwi.
"I have had communications from kaumatua from both Tauranga Moana iwi and from Hauraki that they are in active discussions," he said during an interview on The Hui television show.
He said he understood kaumatua and kuia (elders) representing the 12 iwi of the Hauraki collective were meeting on Wednesday to sort out a protocol for a tikanga process to engage with other iwi about cross-claims in the settlement.
Little, who has previously indicated his intent to sign the settlement, said the delay would not be indefinite.
"While there is progress being made, that's a good thing. I will give a bit of time to make that happen."
Ngāi Te Rangi Settlement Trust chairman Charlie Tawhiao said the iwi appreciated being given more time.
"I am concerned, however, that he is still insisting on putting a limit on it."
Ngāi Te Rangi led hundreds of Tauranga Māori to the steps of Parliament earlier this month to ask the Crown to let iwi sort out the cross-claims in the settlement between themselves through a traditional tikanga process.
Little gave the parties a couple of weeks to show him evidence the standoff could be broken, and a tikanga process could begin. The deadline for that evidence was last week.
Tawhiao said Ngāi Te Rangi kaumatua had extended an invitation to kaumatua of the Hauraki iwi to a hui.
He expected a response after Hauraki's meeting on Wednesday.
"We are just sitting, waiting, hoping."
He said the minister's comments on Sunday were "vague" and believed Little was "keeping his options open" rather than stepping aside completely.
"It's not a breakthrough. I believe he wants to avoid either side holding the other to ransom, which is why he is doing this progressive thing.
"Each time we make a bit of progress he acknowledges that and backs off a bit."
Responding to Little's decision to delay signing the settlement deed for the collective of 12 Hauraki iwi, spokesman Paul Majurey said the iwi looked forward to a signing "in the near future".
"It is sad, in the meantime, that the attempted delay and bully boy antics of Ngai Te Rangi are causing a deterioration in the relationships between Pare Hauraki and Tauranga Moana.
"This has implications for the entire settlement process. The remaining Treaty settlements are the difficult ones, and if this type of carry on is tolerated, it will slow down these settlements, including for Ngapuhi.
He defended Pare Hauraki's redress claims to land in Te Puna and Katikati, saying they were backed up by the Waitangi Tribunal, were the result of lengthy talks between Hauraki and Tauranga Moana iwi, and did not diminish the rights or interests of other iwi.
"We have never refused to talk. But our settlement will not be held up any longer."