An East Coast Maori leader says the Government has clearly breached the Treaty of Waitangi in granting an exploration permit to a Brazilian company, Petrobras.
More than 200 people lit bonfires along beaches from Opotiki to Gisborne on Sunday to protest against the deal.
Ngati Porou leader Api Mahuika told Morning Report the Crown acted outside the Treaty because it has not consulted and has failed to honour a guarantee to protect the rights of Maori.
Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee earlier said he has apologised for failing to inform the iwi first, but that the agreement with Petrobras stands.
He said the iwi cannot claim veto rights over the exploration.
Mr Brownlee says he met Mr Mahuika about the oil exploration project last Wednesday.
He said it would be optimistic to expect a response after only three working days.