The marae where kereru was served up to Government ministers says it didn't know at the time that it was illegal to eat the protected native bird.
Amy Adams, Nathan Guy and Dame Tariana Turia were at a meeting of around 40 iwi leaders at Maungarongo Marae in Ohakune in 2013 where kereru was on the menu.
Prime Minister John Key says the ministers weren't aware kereru might have ended up on their plates and it's unclear whether they actually ate it.
Marae spokesman Che Wilson says because the birds were given to them by the Department of Conservation for cultural purposes, they didn't think it was a problem.
"We were surprised by the fuss, because we thought we were doing the right thing because they'd be given to us by the department," he told Radio New Zealand.
"We thought it was fine to eat them."
DOC says there are provisions under the Wildlife Act to allow the use of dead kereru for cultural purposes, like using feathers for cloak weaving or bone to make ta moko instruments.
"Each year dozens of birds, such as kereru, that have been found dead are handed into DOC offices around the country and DOC authorises the transfer of these dead birds to local iwi on request for cultural use," DOC said.
However, DOC isn't aware of any applications to eat dead kereru and it wouldn't support doing so on food safety grounds.
Mr Wilson says the marae is working with DOC on the issue.
Kereru, the native wood pigeon, have been protected by law since 1912.
They are not classified as threatened but DOC says pest control is needed for populations to increase or avoid decline.
Northland iwi leader Sonny Tau is facing charges after he was allegedly caught with five dead kereru.