It was clear by the 1870s that the Kīngitanga posed no threat beyond its borders and was in no fit shape to fight a war. Attempts were made to ease relations between the king and the colonial government, and Tāwhiao met Native Minister Donald McLean at Waitomo in 1875. Reserves of land on the west bank of the Waikato River were offered in exchange for taking the oath of allegiance. Tāwhiao rejected the offer.
In 1878 Sir George Grey, now the premier, attended the Maehe, an annual hui that saw Kīngitanga subjects renew their allegiance and commitment to oppose land selling. Grey's presence was viewed as another step towards normalising relations with the government while retaining the aims of the Kīngitanga.
Of greater significance to settlers and the government was the formal act of peace made by the King movement in 1881 at Alexandra (Pirongia). Tāwhiao and 500 supporters appeared before the resident magistrate, Major William Mair, and laid down their weapons. This was quickly followed by another attempt to persuade Tāwhiao to take the oath of allegiance and open the King Country to settlement. The king was offered a pension, a position as a legislative councillor, the return of 20,000 acres (8100 hectares) of confiscated lands and a furnished house. Tāwhiao refused, and continued to bargain for independent authority and the return of all confiscated lands.
In 1892, however, he accepted a government pension. Tāwhiao argued that his acceptance was a test of the government's sincerity in promising that he could retain the title of king and control local Māori affairs. Other Waikato leaders were outraged, and Tāwhiao was forced to reject the offer.
In 1884 Tāwhiao led a deputation to England to petition Queen Victoria. He sought an independent Māori parliament and an independent commission of inquiry into the land confiscations. He stressed that the Kīngitanga was not separatist and did not reject the Queen's authority. It was rather an attempt to unify Māori so that they might more effectively claim the Queen's protection. In his view the Māori King and the British Queen could peacefully coexist, with God over both. Māori felt they had a special relationship with their Treaty partner, Queen Victoria, and believed they had a right to meet with her in person. They were to be disappointed. They met instead with Lord Derby at the Colonial Office who referred the petition back to the New Zealand government on the grounds that the imperial government no longer had responsibility for such matters. The New Zealand government dismissed it.
From 1886 'King committees' operated at Whatiwhatihoe, Kāwhia, Aotea, Thames and Ōhinemuri, providing local government within Kīngitanga territory. These committees issued summonses, heard cases, opposed surveys and blocked government works wherever possible. They also operated in opposition to the committees set up under the Native Committees Act 1883.
A petition was sent to the native minister calling for a Māori legislative council, but this was merely met with another offer to Tāwhiao of a seat in the colonial Legislative Council. The Kīngitanga made plans for its own parliament, the Kauhanganui, which was set up at Maungakawa, near Cambridge, around 1889 or 1890. The Kauhanganui enabled Tāwhiao to communicate with his subjects through tribally appointed delegates.