Local iwi entered the ga' />

Hopes were tonight high for a quick resolution after 50 Maori protesters reoccupied Wanganui's Moutoa Gardens early today.

Local iwi entered the gardens just before dawn, seven years after a bitter 79-day occupation split the local community.

Iwi are protesting inaction over their Whanganui River Treaty of Waitangi claim and state-owned Genesis Energy's application to take water from the river for the next 35 years.

Negotiation between iwi and the crown, represented by Associate Maori Affairs Minister Tariana Turia, were continuing tonight after a day of intensive talks.

Wanganui Mayor Chas Poynter said the protesters had been granted permission to stay in the gardens overnight by its trust board.

The trust board is made up of representatives from the crown, local iwi and the local council.

"I can't say what was said in the negotiations, but I am hopeful of a quick resolution," Mr Poynter said.

"It is now a matter between the crown and local iwi. There were a lot of complex issues discussed and there is still some way to go."

Wanganui residents wanted to avoid a repeat of the last protest.

Mr Poynter said he understood Prime Minister Helen Clark could visit the gardens tomorrow and play a direct part in talks.

Protesters had set up a large tent in the gardens and would stay until they had a written obligation from the crown that their needs would be met, he said.

Iwi spokesman Ken Mair said tonight talks were progressing.

"We are always positive that at the end of the day we will come up with something that meets the needs and aspirations of our people.

"In the context of thing there is still a some way to go, but we will head back into negotiations tonight and see where that takes us. Obviously one of the sticking points is the Genesis Energy application."

Mr Mair said protesters would be delighted if Miss Clark visited the gardens.

Miss Clark tolsaid today the Government wouldn't stand by and watch the protest escalate.

"It's now a question of assuring that the issues raised by Genesis are going to be dealt with in negotiation.

"What we've said is issues associated with the use of the water from the Whanganui River will form part of the negotiations, and the crown will meet commitments it reaches through the negotiations, so I think there is a very clear process there."

ACT MP Stephen Franks said entering negotiation when a "lawless" invasion of property had taken place was nothing more than appeasement.

"The last Moutoa deal was a capitulation to unlawful use of force and threats of violence. So it's no surprise that the winners are back at it again."

Genesis Power was last year granted resource consents to continue its Tongariro Power Development on the river for the next 35 years. However, 15 parties had appealed, including Wanganui iwi.

Appeals are due to be heard in the Environment Court in January.

- NZPA