Leading Maori tribes are lobbying to get first bidding rights for state houses when they start going up for sale this year.

Iwi chairs attending their annual pre-Waitangi forum at Kerikeri will discuss the issue today and put their case to Prime Minister John Key and Environment Minister Nick Smith when they attend the forum tomorrow.

Sonny Tau, who chairs the country's biggest iwi, Ngapuhi, said he was seeking a formal right of first refusal for about 1200 state houses from Whangarei to Mahurangi north of Auckland as part of the iwi's negotiations for a Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

Two other big iwi, Tainui and Ngai Tahu, won first rights of refusal for state housing in the 1990s and Tainui leader Tukoroirangi Morgan has said his tribe wants to exercise that right to buy state houses in South Auckland and the Waikato.


Other groups, such as the Far North iwi Te Rarawa, do not have formal first refusal rights but said they expected the Crown to talk to them first.

"We do expect that because we are the most logical next owners," said Te Rarawa chair Haami Piripi. "I can't imagine anyone else doing it in the way we could do it for our own people."

Mr Key said last week the Government would consult with iwi and community housing providers "with a view to selling between 1000 and 2000 Housing NZ properties over the coming year".

Up to 8000 homes could be sold by 2017.

Although Maori make up only 34.5 per cent of state tenants nationally, they are a majority in areas such as Northland, the eastern Bay of Plenty and the East Coast.

The iwi chairs are also seeking vendor finance from the state. An example put to ministers at a previous meeting suggested that the Crown would provide "funding at cost (e.g. 3 per cent)" for prices based on future rental income. Whakatane's houses were quoted as having a book value of $80 million but a "cashflow value" of only $19 million.

East Coast's Ngati Porou and other Gisborne iwi have already met Treasury officials to seek the 1300 state houses in the Gisborne District.

Ngati Whatua Orakei deputy chairman Ngarimu Blair said his iwi was interested in all state housing in its traditional area which includes the main Auckland isthmus and the northern shores of the Waitemata Harbour.


"We are driven by having lost all of our land and having absolutely nothing, to wanting to recover as much of our traditional tribal estate as possible," he said. "This is just one more potential way of advancing that."

First refusal rights

• Agreed in settlements: Tainui, Ngai Tahu.

• Being sought in settlement talks: Ngapuhi, Te Aitanga a Mahaki (Gisborne).

• Being sought informally: Te Rarawa (Far North) and others.