There is a chance the Government and Ngati Whatua and Tainui may yet avoid a court case over sales of Auckland crown land.

Talks between the iwi and the Crown Law Office have been proceeding all week and though a court case had been promised by the iwi, so far no papers appear to have been filed.

The Government is anxious to sell surplus crown land for affordable housing.

But the two iwi said their Treaty Settlements provided they had right of first refusal on the disposal of any crown land in Auckland.

It’s that right they have said they want the Court to protect.

The Prime Minister says that the chances of a case are “slightly less probable” this week.

“But that doesn’t mean it can’t change by the end of the week,” he told his post Cabinet Press Conference on Monday.

Government sources in close touch with the negotiations see it as significant that no legal action has been filed.

They say the talks have been constructive and there is optimism that that a solution will found.

Once the agreement has been reached the Government is confident it can meet its own targets to get the houses built.

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One of the problems may have been that both the Crown the iwi appear to have been arguing at cross purposes.

It seems unlikely that the iwi actually want to develop the land.  

What they are seeking is a pro forma recognition of what they consider their Treaty Right to be offered the land even if it is only for them to turn it down.

Nick Smith has said that his officials were talking to Auckland Maori from before the Budget.

But they were talking to the Tamaki Collective, in particular Paul Majurey, who is not from either Ngati Whatua or Tainui but is the Collective’s Chief Negotiator.

Mr Majurey has been successfully involved in a big deal with the Government to develop land at Weymouth for affordable housing.

It was this approach the Government though they could continue with.

And this week they have realised they cannot rely on agreements with Mr Majurey to assuage Ngati Whatua and Tainui.

They are much more concerned to preserve the principle of the right of first refusal for the future.

They see this as central to what is being called the post settlement phase in Auckland. 

The Prime Minister told Parliament on Tuesday that the Government remains committed to releasing 500 hectares of crown land for affordable housing.

It is clear that there is a very strong political imperative for the Government to reach an agreement on the release of the land.

“The Government’s policy is going to release between 400 and 500 hectares of Crown-owned land,” he said.

“Given there are 150,000 of them in Auckland, I am pretty confident you will find that the Government will achieve that.”