A Government plan to turn Northland's giant kauri forest into New Zealand's 15th national park has hit a serious obstacle - a local iwi is opposing the project unless it can jointly run the asset.
About 200 members of Te Roroa live at Waipoua Forest and regard themselves as ancestral guardians of its famous kauri trees.
Though the tribe works closely with the Department of Conservation managing Waipoua, it has taken issue with the department's park plan, saying a discussion paper is inaccurate, incomplete and unbalanced.
Submissions on the paper have closed, although any decision is some way off.
Te Roroa kaumatua Garry Hooker, who put together the tribe's submission in response to DoC's plan, wants park work deferred until concerns are resolved.
"The timing isn't right," Mr Hooker said.
"There's a long history behind the park plan. Discussions go back decades. We want to get it right and the longer devoted to it, the better chance of getting it right."
DoC's 14,000ha plan covers Waipoua Forest and two smaller nearby areas - Trounson Kauri Park and Maitahi Wetland.
Though parts of Waipoua have been logged and gum diggers worked the area last century, striking stands of huge kauri - including the 45m "Lord of the Forest" Tane Mahuta - rimu and northern rata trees attract thousands of tourists each year.
Threatened species such as North Island brown kiwi, kukupa (New Zealand pigeons) and pekapeka (bats) are also found in the forest.
The idea of a kauri national park goes back to 1908 when pioneering botanist Leonard Cockayne advocated protecting the forest.
Impetus for the latest plan came from former Conservation Minister Tim Groser, who set the ball rolling in October 2009.
In its submission, Te Roroa puts its case to run a new park jointly with the Crown. It says precedent exists, as Tainui jointly manages the Waikato River, and notes that Australia's Kakadu National Park - which includes Uluru or Ayers Rock - is run by park managers and traditional Aboriginal owners.
The department accepts that the tribe wants a co-management deal, but says such an arrangement is beyond the scope of the park plan.
Mr Hooker said Te Roroa also disputed DoC's contention that Treaty claims to the area had been settled.
The department says the 2008 Te Roroa settlement "removed the primary obstacle" to work on the park proposal, but Mr Hooker said two unresolved claims remained.
He said the tribe was concerned the plan contained nothing about protecting wahi tapu or sacred areas.
No cost-benefit study had been done, so no one could say whetherthe park would bring more business into a low-income area.
"I imagine the people who live there are expected to shoulder the burden if people get lost and they need help. These are issues we need to sort out."
A spokesman for Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said she was unable to comment until she had been briefed on the park submissions.
DoC's Whangarei office, which is collating 40 written submissions, expects to complete a summary of feedback this week.