Any minerals found in conservation land in Northland could re-open Treaty of Waitangi settlements with iwi who were told the conservation estate was off the table in earlier negotiations, Maori Party MP Hone Harawira says.
As part of the Government's reversal on mining announced yesterday, it said there would be no mining in conservation land protected by schedule four of the Crown Minerals Act.
However, aeromagnetic surveys will be undertaken in non-schedule four land in Northland and the West Coast of the South Island to identify mineral deposits.
Mr Harawira said the Government had made it clear to iwi during treaty settlement negotiations that the conservation estate was not on offer because it was for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
"If the Government is now changing those rules then they should expect Maori to return to the table to reclaim those lands."
The announcement of the survey raised more questions than it answered, he said.
"Maori have a greater interest in what happens in Tai Tokerau than either of the councils (Northland Regional Council and Far North District Council) Government has been talking to because at the end of the day Maori will still be here but there's no guarantee either of the councils will."
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said the Government should work closely with any iwi whose land was found to have mineral deposits.
Mining was an issue for iwi and hapu to discuss with the Government, Mrs Turia said.
"Those lands are their lands, they're not for us to be making comment about and we would expect the Government, if they're looking at those areas for mining, would work closely with those iwi."
Mrs Turia said she did not personally support mining but did not want to speak on behalf of iwi who may have mineral deposits under their land.
Where iwi could show they held customary right, she would expect them to benefit from any exploration, she said.
The Maori Party did not know there was going to be a step back from mining in schedule four land but was happy with the announcement, she said.