The Maori Party has said it does not blame some Tainui leaders for not attending the first of the Government's planned consulation hui over water rights.
Co-leader Tariana Turia said the Government has a pre-determined view on the outcome of the meetings, and they do not amount to consultation at all.
The first of six huis to be held over the next 10 days on the controversial issue began in Hamilton this evening.
It was momentarily disrupted by a protestor carrying a banner reading "stop asset sales".
The protestor was asked to leave, and instead set up her poster outside the building in order for it to be seen by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English as he arrived.
ONE News Deputy Political Editor Jessica Mutch is attending the hui.
She said that "not many people" had turned up for the meeting.
However, the hui has gone ahead, despite many Maori leaders within Tainui saying they are dubious about the sincerity of Prime Minister John Key and his Government on the issue.
"If it is to fulfill a box for the Crown to tick, then I am uncomfortable about that, my team is uncomfortable about that," said chair of Te Arataura, Tom Roa.
The consultation focuses on the 'shares-plus' idea raised by the Waitangi Tribunal, which proposes that Maori affected by the partial sale of state-owned energy companies should be given greater management power.
But the Government has already said that is unworkable, and there are suspicions the talks are just a way to boost the Crown's case if the issue goes to court.
"They are wanting to consult on their terms to appease their legal framework and take a defensive position into any future legal action," said Willie Te Aho, Ngati Koroki Kahukura.
Even the Government's coalition partner is sceptical
"I guess they are trying to be able to tick that box so that if the court case does come up thay can say they went out," said Turia.
However, Prime Minister John Key said the consultation is a genuine attempt to explain the Government's position to Maori, and to see if there are any issues it has missed.
But he did admit that it won't do the Crown's case any harm if Maori don't turn out.
"As long as we undertake our consultation in good faith as we are, if someone doesn't turn up that might affect their legal position but it doesn't affect ours," he said.
ONE News understands that while Tainui leaders have boycotted tonight's hui, other iwi will meet the Government in coming days.
It has prompted questions about how unified Maori are about the water rights issue.
"Not from the media reports I've seen, I mean, there are more positions than Lady Gaga has outfits," said Key.
The Maori Party said it will take up its concerns at its regular meeting with Key tomorrow night.