The board that holds the mandate to negotiate Ngāpuhi's Treaty claim, Tūhoronuku, has done an about-face on its conditional acceptance of a plan to hand over the reins to hapū.
Tūhoronuku chair Hone Sadler has told Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson that the board now accepts the unedited and full version of the Maranga Mai report, although with some reservations.
The report - put together by a multi-party engagement group - outlines a transition plan to allow hapū to drive the negotiations, and the board accepted it last Friday with strings attached.
Four trustees immediately resigned, saying the board was trying to undermine the plan and retain control.
Mr Finlayson had warned that if the report was not adopted in its entirety, Tūhoronuku could lose the mandate.
One of the trustees who walked out, lawyer Moana Tuwhare, said the change of stance was surprising given the vehemence with which some of the trustees had opposed the report.
"They wanted it modified significantly," she said.
"That they would have changed their mind in the last couple of days is somewhat extraordinary, but if they're doing that for the right reasons and they are genuine about that then that's great, that means that we can move forward."
She said if that was backed up by a board resolution, it would be real progress for the iwi.
Under the plan, Tūhoronuku would be disbanded in favour of a new hapū-led authority to oversee treaty negotiations.
Pita Tipene, who co-chairs the hapū alliance Kotahitanga, said if the U-turn was genuine then the process needed to move forward quickly.
"The minister needs to come out with a very clear statement that now that Tūhoronuku has accepted the Maranga Mai report, that we move into the implementation phase and that the transition group meets ASAP, and starts moving forward with that.
"We must make haste," Mr Tipene said.