Iwi are being warned they can be sued if they do not start looking after their people who live outside tribal areas.
Treaty of Waitangi settlements have strengthened the financial position of iwi - turning some into New Zealand's most influential corporate players.
Te Whānau o Waipareira chief executive John Tamihere said some iwi contributed nothing to the 85 percent of Māori who live in urban areas, like his west Auckland home.
"You will see cases of beneficiaries, who have been totally left out, over the next 15-to-20 years litigating for breach of trust," Mr Tamihere said.
Some iwi have rejected claims they were not doing enough.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei trustee Ngarimu Blair said his tribe used proceeds from its $1.1 billion Auckland property portfolio to provide initiatives such as health insurance and a planned savings scheme for members - no matter where they lived.
"The only reason we exist as a tribe is to advance the social and cultural improvement of our people," Mr Blair said.
"There's no point having a $1 billion asset base if we can't improve the lives of our peoples, so we're very focused on that."
Ngāi Tahu, Waikato-Tainui and Ngāti Porou are all investing in social housing, while Ngāi Tahu already has a savings scheme in place.
But Waikato-Tainui chief negotiator Rahui Papa has warned the responsibility to rectify problems afflicting Māori was the government's responsibility.
"Article 3 of the Treaty (of Waitangi) is the social responsibilities of the government, and we are not going to let the government abrogate their responsibilities," he said.
"We want to help and work alongside the Government but we are not going to take over."
At the last census, one in four Māori did not declare a tribal affiliation.
A former Ngāi Tahu leader, Sir Mark Solomon said it's hard for tribes to help if Māori themselves don't know which iwi they come from.
Iwi such as Ngāi Tahu and Waikato-Tainiu have a combined $3 billion worth of assets and are prominent landlords, farmers, and tourism operators.
* You can hear more about the iwi economy on Insight just after the 8am news on Sunday Morning.