The Government is attempting to re-start Treaty settlement talks with an eastern Bay of Plenty tribe fiercely opposed to deep-sea oil drilling.
The Crown says it's very keen to discuss claims made by Te Whanau a Apanui, which has protested against exploration off East Cape.
Speaking at a Maori Affairs Select Committee, Labour MP Shane Jones said the anti-oil protest has distracted the tribe's attention, power and energy.
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said the iwi is a priority case among tribes that are yet to settle.
He said Te Whanau a Apanui got close to signing just before the 2008 election but for some reason, descendants didn't put pen to paper.
Mr Finlayson said, looking back, maybe they should have signed.