A Ngati Hine elder says unless Maori are treated with more respect by councils, they will take their Treaty settlement cash and invest it offshore.
Solomon Tipene spoke at a public meeting in Kerikeri on Monday night on local government reform.
He said Northland has the largest Maori population in New Zealand and it is growing, but councils continue to shut them out.
Mr Tipene said iwi will receive substantial amounts in the near future as their Treaty claims are settled.
If councils continue to marginalise Maori as they have in the past, he said they will take their money and invest it in Australia.
Far North Mayor Wayne Brown is promising to create Maori seats on a unitary authority, if his council's reform proposals succeed.
More than 100 people attended the meeting, which was chaired by Sir Geoffrey Palmer.
The panel included Tipene Marr, who holds one of three dedicated Maori seats at Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
Mr Marr said the creation of Maori seats on the council had led to constructive initiatives to support the region's economic development.
He said it had also created for the first time, a way for Pakeha councillors to find out what Maori in their rohe were thinking and discussing.
Mr Marr said councillors had previously gleaned their knowledge of Maori issues from TV or newspapers, which put good news about Maori on the back page - and bad news on the front.
The Local Government Commission is expected to release a draft proposal for local government in Northland after the elections next month.
Mr Brown said the expectation is that the Commission will favour a single unitary authority for the region.
He said that would be politically very risky because Maori in the Far North want a council that represents their community of interest, and are backing his proposal for a Far North unitary authority with dedicated Maori seats.