Lack of clarity around what the funding will be used for is why four Wanganui District councillors tried to vote down extra spending on iwi relations.

The quartet made their points clear when the council debated its 2015-25 10-Year Plan last week but did not get the support of their colleagues.

The vote approved spending $150,000 a year for the next decade on iwi relations with the dissenters including councillors Philippa Baker-Hogan, Charlie Anderson, Rob Vinsen and Ray Stevens.

The potential for business partnerships with local iwi is a prime motive behind the increase.

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Earlier, Mayor Annette Main said closer liaison would help "maximise the benefits" of what she said could be about $200 million in Treaty settlements coming to three iwi - Whanganui, Ngati Apa and Nga Rauru.

In April, she told the Chronicle that the funding would "ensure we meet the expert advice, policy and technical support requirements to build new frameworks with iwi entities.

"It will also let us undertake our role in the Whanganui River settlement process and support the work required for a river valley development plan. In a district where nearly 25 per cent of our community are Maori, the need for healthy partnerships is obvious."

Mrs Baker-Hogan said she supported a 100 per cent increase to $50,000 in the 2015/16 budget, suggesting council reconsider this in the 2016 annual plan deliberations "when we had more clarity around the amount requested.

"In my opinion, it's not about the important relationship with iwi but, like every other request, council needs better information when asked for a 600 per cent increase in any budget line.

"The $150,000 per annum is also inflation-adjusted so rises significantly over the 10 years of the plan."

Mr Stevens said the increasing money for liaison could easily reach $2.6 million over the next decade by his reckoning.

"We've just voted to add $150,000 a year for the next 10 years for iwi relations so there's $1.5 million. We're already budgeting $60,000 a year for iwi liaison.

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"There's another $600,000. And we have to consider officer time during this period which I believe could conservatively total another $500,000," he said.

"But my major concern is that this funding cannot be quantified in any way. We really won't know what we're committing to until after the river claim is finally settled.

"There's a huge council financial investment in iwi liaison already. I moved for the funding to be cut by $50,000 at least because we're a third of the way through the year already. We can't throw money at things but that's what council has done here."

Mr Anderson said he believed the amount was too much and unnecessary.

"There's been nothing specific to say what the money's being used for.

"It seems we only have to pay when we liaise with iwi. To anybody else we do this for free," he said.

Mr Vinsen said Mr Ross confirmed there was already $92,000 annually in the iwi relations budget to cover the costs of the existing two iwi liaison committees.

"On top of this, there's now another $150,000 for 'cultural advice' but it couldn't be articulated what this might actually be.

"I recognise the enhanced relationship that council now has with iwi. However, what's happening here is that a fund is being put aside for future dipping into and I can't support that."

Mr Vinsen said he moved a motion (seconded by Mrs Baker-Hogan) that the budget be $50,000 but that was only supported by Mrs Baker-Hogan and Mr Anderson.

Mr Stevens then tried to get the sum reduced to $100,000 a year but that was also defeated.

Mrs Main said a well-resourced relationship with iwi was important to the community.

"Post-settlement is clearly an additional opportunity for us to have meaningful and co-operative relationships rather than what is often referred to as 'consulting' with iwi," she said.

"We live in a time when iwi are increasing their economic, political, and cultural influence, while also investing in creating intergenerational wealth, opportunity, and prosperity for their people.

"The flow-on effect of this will bring good environmental, social, cultural as well as economic outcomes to our community as a whole.

"If the form that this investment by council in our future is still developing, that should not prevent us from the allocation of resources to a mutually beneficial end result."