The Hauraki District's mayor says it is hugely disappointing that the Hauraki Collective's treaty settlement negotiations have been stalled since last December.
Mayor John Tregidga is urging Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson to get on with settling the claims in the Hauraki-Coromandel region.
The mayor said the negotiations were around 99 percent complete, but the minister had refused to negotiate since some Hauraki iwi went to the Waitangi Tribunal over a separate issue of representation on a pan-iwi governance forum in Bay of Plenty.
Mr Tregidga said the delay was a missed opportunity for the region, as he understands the Hauraki iwi would have a balance sheet of about $200 million once the settlement was complete.
"That would make them the biggest business people within the Hauraki District, the Hauraki region, so it is significant," he said.
"But this isn't really about that - this is about actually fairness, and the fact that the whole community was expecting settlement by the end of last year, certainly at the latest early this year, and here we are still on hold."
A negotiator for Ngāti Tamaterā, one of the 12 iwi of the Hauraki Collective, Liane Ngamane said she shared the mayor's frustration.
She said she did not know why the minister had stopped negotiations over the issue of Bay of Plenty representation - and the delay beggared belief.
Ms Ngamane said a few years ago Mr Finlayson assured senior kaumatua he was committed to seeing the claims through.
"Those same kaumatua are getting frail, they fought for these claims all their lives," she said.
"And when we are just near the end, this delay - just don't want to see any more of our people passing away while the Crown twiddles its thumbs over things.
"It could negotiate out with us kanohi-ki-te-kanohi rather than force us into a Waitangi Tribunal litigation."
Ms Ngamane said Hauraki was rural and the settlements would bring economic benefited not only to the tribes but to the region's communities.
"Every day settlement goes unsettled, opportunity is lost both in an economic sense and in a social sense in the kinds of aspirations that we all have as iwi for our people and for this region."
Ms Ngamane said there was a risk that support and commitment on both sides could wane. They currently had all the local authorities supporting the claim, she said, but that could change.
She said Ngāti Tamaterā was luckier than some of the other 12 iwi in the collective as it had completed a partial on-account settlement by purchasing a Landcorp farm on the Hauraki Plains.
The $50m investment has enabled it to support the local community by buying locally, she said.
Minister: 'It is simply wrong to say negotiations are 99 percent complete'
Mr Finlayson said the Crown was committed to completing historical treaty settlement negotiations with the iwi of Hauraki as quickly as possible.
In a written statement, he said: "Five of the iwi of Hauraki have filed litigation in the Waitangi Tribunal. The Crown does not negotiate with iwi at the same time they are litigating against the Crown. This has required iwi-specific and collective negotiations to be paused.
"Iwi-specific negotiations are active with those Hauraki iwi who did not file in the tribunal, including Ngāti Paoa, Ngāti Hei, Ngāti Whanaunga and Ngāti Rahiri Tumutumu.
"The claims of the iwi of Hauraki are complex and overlapping. We are making good progress on these negotiations but it is simply wrong to say negotiations are 99 percent complete.
"I have heard that figure before. It is wrong and repetition does not make it right.
"I look forward to the completion of the tribunal's inquiry so we can resume all negotiations with the iwi of Hauraki. I have offered to meet Mr Tregidga, and other interested mayors, to update them on progress with Hauraki negotiations."
Mr Finlayson said a new chief crown negotiator, Rick Barker, was appointed earlier this year to bring a new perspective to negotiations, which are "progressing in a constructive and timely manner".
He said a deed of settlement was initialled with Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki less than two months ago.