Votes are being counted from a meeting involving Ngati Whakaue hapu to confirm the role a trust plays in seeking to return Te Puia from the Crown.

The Whakarewarewa Joint Trust held a hui for Ngati Hurungaterangi, Ngati Taeotu and Ngati Te Kahu at Te Papaiouru Marae, Ohinemutu, on Sunday. It asked for confirmation that it should continue to act on behalf of iwi to bring back the tourist attraction from the Crown into a new entity.

This followed similar meetings involving Tuhourangi, Ngati Wahiao and Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust with 95 per cent of voters in support.

"It was very well attended with about 150 people who were registered members [of the hapu] voting," said trust chairman Malcolm Short. "The votes are being counted by the scrutineers, Deloitte, who have until June 23 to check the whakapapa connections on the declaration forms are valid."

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Mr Short said the results would then be given to Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples.

The group hoped to start negotiations before the general election in September.

Te Puia is on the southern Arikikapakapa and Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserves and leases the land from the Whakarewarewa Joint Trust.

The trust, comprising representatives from Ngati Whakaue, Ngati Wahiao, Tuhourangi and Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust, has held the 70ha since it was returned by the Crown in 2008 until agreement over ownership could be reached.

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