A Bay of Plenty hapu is accusing the owners of the Rena of using colonial tactics to divide iwi with offers of money.
At a hearing underway in Mount Maunganui, the owners are seeking resource consents to leave what is left of the shipwreck on Otaiti, the Astrolabe Reef.
Ngai Te Hapu from Motiti Island is opposing the consents but said a number of other groups had reached an accommodation with the owners after being offered hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Spokesperson Buddy Mikaere said offering the money was far cheaper for the owners and insurers than the $500 million to $1 billion cost of removing the wreck in its entirety.
"This is big corporate versus a little bunch of Maoris on a small island in the South Pacific," said Mr Mikaere.
He said he understood the settlements were conditional on the owners securing the resource consents, and were a way to pressure those who had settled to pressure other groups to change their minds.
Ngati Makino supports the consent along with some other Te Arawa entitities.
A spokesperson, Pia Bennett, conceded Ngati Makino had negotiated a settlement with the owners that included $1.25 million for a building that would help boost kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of the sea and honour the tipuna who named the reef.
But Ms Bennett denied it was about the money.
"With or without the money, our position wouldn't have changed. It was all about locking in those consent conditions knowing the owners could walk away at any stage. But since then we've managed to negotiate a settlement to mitigate some of those cultural effects on Te Arawa."
A lawyer for the owners said there had been unprecedented consultation with iwi about the consent application.