A collective of iwi leaders have signed a formal agreement that will see greater Māori input in local government decisions on the first day of the National Iwi Chairs Forum in Waitangi.
However, the move has already attracted opposition from others in the region.
Media were not allowed during discussion time due to sensitive discussions around the possibility of Māori creating a formal working relationship with local government in the North.
Te Kahu o Taonui's Raniera Tau says, "The door is always open. It's not as if you're going to be wrangled like a horse and told to sign on the dotted line."
A possible deal between local leaders and regional council is already attracting opposition.
Te Rūnanga Ā Iwi o Ngāti Kahu chair Makere Mutu says, "We all know that local government and councils do not listen to us. It's always been like that."
The issue at hand is the co-signing of a governance relationship agreement between the Northland Mayoral Forum and Te Kahu o Taonui (Te Tai Tokerau Iwi Chairs Forum), who say the benefits far outweigh the risk of collaboration.
Tau says, "It's a chance for us to have a voice in the legal proceedings at a regional level."
The collaboration between Te Kahu o Taonui and local government does not have the support of Whangārei hapū, who have contacted Minister of Māori Development, Nanaia Mahuta, to voice their opposition. It is supported by three of the councils in the North (Northland Regional, Far North, and Kaipara).
However, there is uncertainty around Whangārei.
Tau says, "The mayor [of Whangārei, Sheryl Mai] is very receptive of the collaboration. However, to my knowledge, the problem lies with her councillors."
Mutu says, "You're working with a substandard council system- why would one do that?"
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives to address the National Iwi Chairs Forum tomorrow.