The Crown and the country's largest iwi are just one step away from settling its Treaty of Waitangi claims.
The Tūhoronuku Independent Mandated Authority, which represents Ngāpuhi and its numerous hapū, have signed the terms of negotiation with the Crown.
Tūhoronuku described it as a celebratory moment for the iwi as it was eight years ago when tribal elders directed the iwi to 'get on with the settlement'.
Those eight years have been challenging with many tribal members refusing to recognise Tūhoronuku's mandate.
Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said it was an important milestone for Ngāpuhi because the Crown can now begin genuine conversations with hapū about specific work that needed to be undertaken to reach a settlement.
Mr Finlayson said the signing of the Terms would not interfere with the current Waitangi Tribunal inquiry into the Crown's decision to acknowledge Tūhoronuku's mandate. He said he would consider the Tribunal's views but meanwhile there was urgent work to do.
He said Tuhoronuku had worked hard to be inclusive and he was urging all hapu to have their say.
In 2011, Tūhoronuku said it consulted with Ngāpuhi to get iwi members to give it the mandate and an overwhelming 76 percent said yes after it spoke to tribal descendants both in New Zealand and in Australia.
Authority chairperson Raniera Tau said Tuhoronuku was ready to talk with any Ngapuhi who wanted to shape the settlement.
But the signing between the Crown and Northland's Ngāpuhi iwi has drawn outrage from a major group who oppose the agreement.
Co-chair of Te Kōtahitanga o ngā Hapū ō Ngāpuhi said they have jumped the gun without considering the Waitangi Tribunal inquiry into the Crown's decision to recognise Tūhoronuku's mandate.
Pita Tipene said the Waitangi Tribunal granted them an urgency hearing and said there were serious concerns about the Crown processes in getting to this point.
"So now that the case has been heard and the evidence put on the table and we're waiting with baited breath for the determination by the judge, we're really disappointed that Tūhoronuku and the Crown continue with those discussions in the background," he said.
"We would have thought that if there was good faith and good will - they would have stopped."
The next stage, the agreement in principle, is expected to take place by later next year.