An appeal has been lodged in the Environment Court over a Bay of Plenty Regional Council proposal to exclude the reef where Rena ran aground from an area of outstanding natural character.
The container ship ran aground on Astrolabe Reef off the Tauranga coast in October 2011.
The council originally included the reef in the natural character area but decided to defer its inclusion because of the wreck.
An adviser to local Maori, Buddy Mikaere, says two hapu groups on Motiti Island and the iwi umbrella group for the hapu, Te Runanga o Ngati Awa, are appealing against the proposal.
Mr Mikaere is worried that downgrading the status of the reef would make it easier to leave the wreck in place.
He says Maritime New Zealand has issued a removal notice for the wreck and the outstanding natural character status of the reef should remain if the owners and insurers comply with the notice.
Last week the container ship's insurer, the Swedish Club, said work to remove submerged accommodation block located on the stern was likely to start in October this year and take up to 80 days.