Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson says it may take years to conclude negotiations with Ngapuhi but if the two negotiating teams work hard, they may surprise themselves.
The Government has recognised the mandate of Tuhoronuku, a board which represents some of Ngapuhi's largest hapu, to conduct Waitangi Tribunal negotiations on behalf of the iwi.
Mr Finlayson said he hopes to make strong progress with Ngapuhi by the end of the year, but concedes cultural grievances in particular cannot be resolved by a central body holding a mandate.
He said the Crown will need to negotiate those issues with clusters of hapu, and that could take years. "But if people knuckle down and work constructively, and I mean that on both sides ... we may surprise ourselves."
The minister said there was a real enthusiasm and willingness on the Crown's part, adding the Tuhoe negotiating team is a good example of how to make progress in claim negotiations.
Meanwhile, some hapu have said they will take Tuhoronuku to court if the board does not address their concerns.
Tuhoronuku chairperson Sonny Tau said a hapu alliance, Te Kotahitanga, asked for an exit clause in the mandate document allowing them to take legal action if they felt their grievances were not being considered, but the Crown refused that clause.
Mr Tau said if dissenting hapu now want to sue Tuhoronuku they will in effect be suing the Crown, as the Government has recognised Tuhoronuku's mandate to represent Ngapuhi.
He said a fresh board will be elected to begin negotiations in June and he hopes to have the settlement process completed within three years.