Three of Northland's four councils and most of its iwi authorities have signed an agreement they say will improve understanding between the two sides and give Northland more clout in its dealings with central government.
The Northland Mayoral Forum and Tai Tokerau Iwi Chairs Forum, or Te Kahu O Taonui, have been in discussions for the past 19 months about building a strategic relationship.
The talks came to fruition on the eve of Waitangi Day commemorations when they signed an agreement ''formalising a collaborative relationship aimed at progressing a shared vision for Northland''.
The January 31 agreement is the first of its kind in New Zealand, Northland Mayoral Forum chairman Bill Shepherd said.
Northland's iwi and council leaders had been meeting in a Chief Executives' Forum for several years, but there was no equivalent governance forum.
"The agreement gives councils and iwi authorities a better understanding of each other's perspectives and provides opportunities for joint ventures that deliver mutual benefits," Shepherd said.
The agreement would also help Northland to speak with one voice on regional issues, giving it more influence in central government decision-making.
Te Kahu O Taonui spokesman Raniera (Sonny) Tau said the agreement could form a blueprint for strategic collaboration between local government and Iwi in other parts of New Zealand.
"The agreement we have signed today is about achieving better social, economic, cultural and environmental outcomes for Northland," he said.
Council leaders and iwi chairs who signed the agreement are Chairman Bill Shepherd for the Northland Regional Council, Mayor John Carter for the Far North District Council, Mayor Jason Smith for Kaipara District Council, Harry Burkhardt for Ngāti Kuri Trust Board, Maahia Nathan for Te Rūnanga Nui o Te Aupouri Trust, Wallace Rivers for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Takoto, Haami Piripi for Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa, Raniera (Sonny) Tau for Te-Rūnanga-ā-Iwi o Ngāpuhi, Hoki Tua for Te Rūnanga o Whaingaroa and Dame Rangimarie Naida Glavish for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua.
Whangārei District Council, Te Rūnanga-a-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu and Ngātiwai Trust Board did not sign.
Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai said councillors debated the issue in December and voted against signing the agreement in case it would be seen as usurping the strong relationships the council already had with local hapū. They also felt hapū should be consulted first.