Criticisms of the $100 million Whakatōhea settlement negotiations have been rejected by the Pre-Settlement Claims Trust.
Last week, Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little and Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey met with the trust, iwi members and hapū leaders at Waiaua Marae near Ōpōtiki.
The Crown and the trust aim to "initial" a Deed of Settlement before the end of the year, which would bring 25 years of negotiations to a close.
Last week's visit was labelled "secret" and "orchestrating the illusion of consultation" on social media by Rotorua lawyer and activist Annette Sykes, who is acting behalf of individual claimants seeking to go through Waitangi Tribunal proceedings instead of the settlement process.
Whakatōhea is the first iwi to be able to negotiate a settlement while some members carry out tribunal proceedings concurrently.
Anyone can take a claim to the tribunal and they do not need to have the endorsement of their hapū to do so.
Sykes expressed "huge disappointment" that her claimants were not part of last week's meeting.
One of the claimants, Amber Rakuraku-Rosieur, says she first found out about the MPs' visit from her aunt's hairdresser.
She told the Rotorua Daily Post she felt "aggrieved".
However, the Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust's chief negotiator Māui Hudson said Little committed to visiting the trust late last year.
"While the trust was given short notice that a visit was possible they felt it was important."
He said the hui recognised the work that kaumātua and kuia had done for the iwi and gave the minister "a strong reference point" for the Crown apology and acknowledgements.
Hudson was "disappointed" by the hui criticisms.
Hudson described the opportunity for Waitangi Tribunal claims to take place as well as the Treaty settlement negotiations as a "win-win scenario".
"It took a year of negotiating with the Crown but they finally agreed to a parallel process so all our people are getting what they voted for.
"The claimants in the hearing have the right to have their claims heard, that has been guaranteed by the Crown so no prejudice can now be created by completing the settlement."
Overall, he said the trust was happy with the progress towards a settlement.
"The shape of the settlement and the shape of the post-settlement governance entity is almost complete and we are out at the moment doing presentations around the country to share this with our whānau.
"We are also livestreaming each presentation for people that can't attend in person."
The trust aims to initial the Deed of Settlement before the end of the year and to give iwi members the chance to vote on it early in 2021.
"This has been a long journey for many of our kaumātua and pakeke. I would like to see the sense of achievement on their faces when the settlement has been completed.
"However, as the minister stated in during his visit, the settlement isn't the end of the journey, its the beginning of a new way of working with the Crown to deliver great outcomes for Whakatōhea."
Waitangi Tribunal claimant Rakuraku-Rosieur, a descendant of the Whakatōhea hapū Ngāti Ira, said in her opinion attending the trust's hui was pointless because criticism was "consistently shut down".
Little said he wanted Whakatōhea to have the opportunity "to talk about their very real grievances in front of the tribunal, while not missing out on the settlement opportunities that are in front of them today".
He said last week's meeting was "publicly notified in advance and was held on Waiaua marae according to its tikanga which meant anyone was welcome to attend".
Coffey said "Minister Little was honouring his word to visit the trust" and he joined to support the minister.
He said the Government was "interested in enduring relationships and ensuring what we do does not create new breaches" in the settlement process.