The decision by Tainui leaders to boycott the Government's planned consultation over water rights has shown "strength and leadership", Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says.
With the purpose of discussing the 'shares-plus' scheme raised by the Waitangi Tribunal as a way for the Crown to settle Maori claims to water rights, the first of six hui was held in Hamilton last night.
"On behalf of the tens of thousands of Maori who have already expressed their opposition to the government's asset sales programme, I wish to thank the people of Tainui for their refusal to buy into National's 'consultation' proposals," Harawira said.
"Last week was a watershed moment in Maori unity and this week the people of Tainui have again shown strength and leadership by refusing to attend last night's hui called by the government to curry favour with selected iwi leaders."
Harawira said the government is only meeting with iwi leaders who "hold mana whenua across those waterways critical to the government's asset sales programme."
Finance Minister Bill English says despite Tainui boycotting the event, and only 12 people in attendance, there was still a robust discussion.
However, ONE News Political Editor Corin Dann told TV ONE's Breakfast this morning that it seems the hui are simply a case of the government ticking a box for the government.
"The point is, the government is getting things lined up here so that when this issue inevitably ends up in the court room, it can say to a judge that they acted in good faith," he said.
Dann also said that it appears there is confusion "as to what sort of unity there is in Maoridom on this issue".
"After last week's hui, there was a growing unity, but Tainui, are possibly a little bit out on their own on this one, with this sort of boycott yesterday," he told Breakfast.
Dann also said that he would not be surprised if "iwi negotiate individually", if the issue ends up in the courtroom.
Yesterday, Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said that it was up to iwi if they attended the hui or not, but that she believed the government has a pre-determined view on the outcome of the meetings, and they do not amount to consultation.
The next hui take place in Taupo this morning and Wanganui later in the day.