Far North District Council has agreed to halt progress on establishing areas of ecological significance, ahead of a hīkoi of over 1000 iwi and hapū members who oppose the proposed restrictions on their whenua arriving at its offices.
The council (FNDC) has been under huge pressure to stop the reclassification of 42 percent of land (282,696ha) in Te Tai Tokerau as Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) owing to the high number of native plants and animals in those areas.
Associate Minister for the Environment (Biodiversity) James Shaw and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta have called on FNDC to wait until the National Policy Statement (NPS) on Indigenous Biodiversity is implemented.
Far North District mayor John Carter agreed after meeting with Shaw today.
He said they would "pause, reset, and consult" with the Far North community but would not make any final decisions until after the NPS was finalised, which was expected to happen in July.
Asked if he supported the NPS, he said he wanted to "sit down and talk properly with their communities".
"There's a lot of people out there who support the principle, we need to make sure we implement it correctly."
Te Poari o Ngāti Wai chief executive Hūhana Lyndon welcomed the decision, but said they would continue to march.
"Our people want to show the strong resistance and opposition to SNA implementation in our region... we welcome the opportunity to co-design what that would look like for our region but right now our people want to hīkoi, and that's what we're going to do."
The hīkoi began at dawn today at Te Herenga Wairua, with 300 people marching to Kaitaia.
Lyndon said 1000 people were expected to arrive at FNDC's Kaikohe office tomorrow about midday.
The National Policy statement on Indigneous Biodiversity is still in the works but is due to be finalised in July.
Green party co-leader and uri o Ngāpuhi Marama Davidson - whose hapū are part of the march - is assuring her people the policy statement will uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
"Protection and conservation plans are those that uphold the mana motuhake of hapū and Te Tiriti over their lands and waters, and so this is what we're very clear on and have always been in the Green party, that it is upholding [that] mana," she said.
Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta said SNAs would help iwi and hapū, not hinder them.
"As kaitiaki, if they knew that there were significant indigenous species on their whenua, one - that would help them make decisions on their land use, secondly - the land use capability is another compounding matter that would help Māori landowners identify whether or not all Māori land is able to be developed in the same way," she said.
That is unlikely to convince members of Ngāi Tahu, especially on the West Coast, said Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai.
"They've got their very strong view that this is another land grab, we've already come through grievance, 150 years of grievance in terms of the loss of land as a people, this is seen as another way of locking up land."
She said iwi and hapū needed to be involved at the beginning and the government must redesign the policy.
"I think they need to stop... they need to have appropriate, valued conversations with iwi from a partnership approach, in good faith, work in co-operation with iwi across Aotearoa."