The Government says it is stepping back from negotiations with Ngapuhi over its Treaty settlement until the iwi's factions can reach agreement on how to proceed with it.

Prime Minister Bill English met with Ngapuhi leaders in Auckland on Saturday night in a bid to salvage settlement talks.

The two factions, Tuhoronuku and Te Kotahitanga, disagree over who has the mandate to negotiate with the Crown on its settlement and how the talks should be handled.

English's spokesman said the Government remained committed to a settlement.


"Once Ngapuhi has agreed on a way forward and on who will carry out negotiations on its behalf, those negotiations can progress."

The Government confirmed its view at the meeting that "Ngapuhi alone should decide how it should be represented in Treaty negotiations".

It has offered to pay for a mediator to help Ngapuhi settle its differences.

"Otherwise the Government will step back from the process so Ngapuhi can finalise its own decisions about its own representation in the Treaty negotiations," the spokesman said.

The meeting disappointed Te Kotahitanga, who said English appeared to be "pulling the pin" on the settlement process.

Co-chairs Rudy Taylor and Pita Tipene said the Prime Minister had "given up on Ngapuhi".

"The Prime Minister has trampled on the mana of his [Treaty Negotiations] minister Chris Finlayson and his agency ... by removing them from the Ngāpuhi settlement," they said.

Tipene also said he did not have confidence in the Tuhoronuku leadership team of Sonny Tau and Hone Sadler to take Ngapuhi forward.

Tuhoronuku were more upbeat about the meeting with English. A letter from Sadler to the Tuhoronuku Independent Mandated Authority Board said the outcome of the meeting was "very positive".


"Essentially what the Prime Minister had intimated is that only Ngāpuhi can bring this together and that he trusts the leadership of Ngāpuhi to come up with the solutions for this matter," Sadler wrote.

He said English had told Ngapuhi he hoped the iwi could come to an agreement by September or October so negotiations could begin under the incoming government after the election.

Tuhoronuku initially had the formal mandate to negotiate with the Crown on a settlement, but this was successfully challenged in the Waitangi Tribunal by Te Kotahitanga last year.

The two parties and the Crown then put together the Maranga Mai report, which set out a path for both factions to be involved in the process and for wider hapu representation.

Tuhoronuku has agreed to the Maranga Mai model but with conditions attached, including concern about representation for urban iwi members.

Last November, it withdrew from a transition process to set up the Maranga Mai model and an attempt by Finlayson to get that back on track in January has come to nothing.

Tipene said Maranga Mai had identified the best way forward for Ngapuhi, and that all parties had been closer than ever to a unified pathway before the meeting with English.