Ngai Tahu Runanga head Sir Mark Solomon wants Maori to have greater freedom to exercise their customary rights on conservation land.
Sir Mark made the call at a hui of government ministers, iwi, business leaders, and environment managers in Wellington on Tuesday.
He said the way national parks were managed effectively locked out Maori from being able utilise natural resources as they traditionally would.
Sir Mark said no one could touch so much as a pebble on the conservation estate, which was preventing practices such as mahinga kai [food collection]. These places were important because they were places where whanau came together.
Maori had an interest in using the land sustainability and to leaving it in a better condition for their mokopuna, he said.