The row over Ngāpuhi's problematic Tūhoronuku mandate has reached crisis point, with some hapū leaders imploring the Minister for Treaty Negotiations to scrap it.
Tūhoronuku, the board set up by the runanga chair Sonny Tau to settle the iwi's treaty claims, is split down the middle over a plan to share power with hapū and is refusing to meet a deadline set by the Crown to commit to the plan by tomorrow.
At stake is the start of settlement talks for the massive claim next year - and the mandate of authority itself.
Delegates from both sides of the dispute on who speaks for Ngāpuhi have been working for seven months on ways to fix a mandate which the Waitangi Tribunal found undermined the right of hapū to choose who spoke for them, and was deeply flawed.
Their recommended solutions, in a report titled Maranga Mai, have been adopted by hapū alliance Te Kotahitanga.
But Tūhoronuku, or at least chair Hone Sadler, former chair Sonny Tau and their supporters on the board, are showing reluctance to do the same.
In a letter to the minister, Chris Finlayson, Mr Sadler said there were outstanding issues that needed more work including urban Māori representation and the make-up of a small group in the proposed negotiating body: Te Hononga Iti.
Mr Tau is on record as saying he believes Te Hononga Iti should negotiate the quantum of the settlement and other iwi-wide matters.
"Given the Maranga Mai report was finally released late on August 10 , this has not given the board enough time to digest the contents ... before our meeting on 23 September," Mr Sadler said.
Mr Finlayson replied that the board could have met in time to meet his deadline but had chosen not to which suggested it was not committed to ensuring Ngāpuhi was on the Treaty negotiations work programme for 2017.
In a bid to meet the deadline, Tūhoronuku's delegates on the joint working party, lawyer Moana Tuwhare and Sam Napia, moved a resolution last Thursday night in a board teleconference to commit to Maranga Mai.
But the board voted by 11 votes to 10 against adopting the report - with the ex-chair Sonny Tau one of those against.
Mr Tau explained his thinking in a briefing note:
"The angst that most of the board are feeling is the ease with which the Crown has allowed Te Kotahitanga who have no mandate at all, into the mix with the same powers as our board who had to go through a rigorous election process," he said.
"We have to remember that ... this mandate was gained by eight years of hard slog and a significant cost to Ngāpuhi."
Mr Tau said his thinking had not changed, despite a warning from a Crown advisor monitoring the process, that the minister had absolutely no patience for further delays.
In a letter to the minister, written on Saturday, board members Moana Tuwhare and Sam Napia said the ongoing power struggle within Tūhoronuku meant it would never implement the changes.
"It is clear that some on the board who continue to hold the majority influence have no intention whatsoever of empowering hapū," they said.
"It is plainly evident to us that these influences intend for Te Hohonga Iti to be their new political power base and they will do what they can to hold onto power by frustrating any transition towards that degree of hapū rangatiratanga envisaged by Maranga Mai."
Ms Tuwhare and Mr Napia said solutions had been brokered by the Maranga Mai hui between groups who had previously been in opposition and there was a groundswell of support for unity within Ngāpuhi and for getting on with the settlement.
"Minister, we implore you ... to have your officials work with the supporters of Maranga Mai and render irrelevant what is presently the single biggest block to progressing the Ngāpuhi settlement by immediately removing Crown recognition of the (Tūhoronuku) mandate," they said.