Maori will have a bigger say on how fresh water resources are managed in Hawke's Bay under proposed reforms presented at a public meeting in Hastings yesterday.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council will also be pushed harder to account for all water takes, whether they be consented or not, as well as record the location and level of nutrients and contaminants leaching into waterways.
The government is on a country-wide tour seeking public feedback on its freshwater reform document and another outlining proposed changes to the Resource Management Act.
About 75 people met at the Hawke's Bay Opera House in Hastings to hear government officials outline what the changes could mean how people could have a say.
By far it was the freshwater reform document which generated the most interest as organisers recognised Hawke's Bay's history with drought.
Alastair Smaill, senior analyst on water reform, said one of the major changes would be the weight given to advice from iwi Maori when it came to planning and making decisions over freshwater.
"What we are talking about is the decision-making rights for Maori over water and there is a statutory requirement for iwi Maori views to be given weight with any decisions to do with freshwater."
Hiria Huata, Bridge Pa, said the rivers connected to her community would score a rating of "F" because "there's no water in them". "It seems farmers and wine growers have had the first but now we just want the water back in our rivers.
"I am looking forward to the iwi views being heard by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council."
Other public speakers were unhappy their views had not been taken into account by the regional council when it planned the Ruataniwha dam. People felt the complex data made it difficult to understand and hoped the freshwater reforms would not be the same. There was also a view the regional council had become an economic development agency rather than an environmental monitor.
Mr Snaill said the regional council would be expected to take account and record all water takes which would help determine how fresh water was used.
"At the moment we don't know how much water is being taken, how much is being discharged. The regional council will be expected to get that information."