The Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group says it wants to negotiate, not litigate, over Maori water rights.
An interim report by the Waitangi Tribunal has found that Maori have rights and interests in fresh water.
The Maori Council says it will go to court if the Government does not acknowledge these findings.
But Tuwharetoa paramount chief Sir Tumu Te Heuheu, speaking for his and four other large iwi, says the future lies in talks, not legal action.
One of those tribes is Waikato-Tainui and Tom Roa, the chairman of its executive, said his tribe's relationship with the Crown is sound, so negotiation, not litigation, is its preferred stance.
Mr Roa stressed he was speaking for his iwi alone.
He thinks any settlement of Maori water rights would involve financial payments of some kind.
Mr Roa said that when something belongs to an iwi, that iwi should look after it for future generations, but there is an economic capacity to that ownership.