Conservation work on a waka found partly buried at Muriwai Beach in December could take two years to complete.

Over the next couple of years the former river vessel, known as a waka tiwai, will be kept in a water bath with a soluble wax added so the cell structure of the wood, believed to be kauri, can stabilise, Auckland Regional Council heritage specialist Robert Brassey said.

"When artefacts like this waka survive it's because they've been waterlogged, it's only the water that's supporting it. If we dried it out now, it'd shrink, crack and then turn to dust so you've got to get something in there to support the timber."

The Crown owns the taonga until the Maori Land Court makes a determination on which hapu, iwi or group owns it.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage will organise the process to determine ownership.

Senior adviser Liz Cotton said claimants had until April 26 to lodge interests with the ministry.