Labour tells iwi leaders they're not doing their job properly signalling it's time to steer a new course

Maoridom's most powerful leaders have been told they're not doing a proper job by the Maori Development Minister, Nanaia Mahuta.

Iwi bosses have been meeting this week in Wellington. Source: 1 NEWS

Labour ministers called on the Iwi Chairs Forum meeting in Wellington this week with a message to change their focus.

"I don't think people in the room if they had their hand on heart would say to us that the way in which the forum has been operating has been entirely satisfactory," Ms Mahuta told the iwi chairs.

The delegates manage hundreds of millions of dollars worth of settlement assets on behalf of their tribes.

Their focus has been on issues such as the ownership of water. But there has been little progress on this during National's nine years in power. 

Now the new Government is signalling it's time to steer a new course.

"Noting that we are a coalition Government, a big head issue will be the discussion going forward on water. That will be a very slow conversation," Ms Mahuta said.

Moira Brown of the Iwi Chairs Forum said they have made it clear "that iwi Maori consider water to be our taonga".

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little said: "I did say it's a bit like a first date and we're already getting the prenuptial agreement handed to us".

The Labour ministers warned the priorities now are to reduce poverty and address climate change, asking the group to refocus.

The Government says it'll also be seeking wider advice from Maoridom on policy issues.

1 NEWS Maori Affairs reporter Yvonne Tahana says it all amounts to an embarrassing change in relationship status for the iwi leaders who some sectors saw as enjoying a close relationship with National.

"I think they may have a few issues about emotionally disconnecting themselves from their ex," Mr Little said.

Ms Brown said: "I think it's important that the focus still remains with this particular group."

Whether this really is a break down in the relationship should be clear at their next date, in Waitangi next year.