The enduring vitality of Wairarapa waterways was the focus of a two-day hui at Hau Ariki Marae in Martinborough.
Spokeswoman Rona Te Maari said about 30 Wairarapa iwi representatives, members of the Ruamahanga Whaitua Committee, and staff from the Greater Wellington Regional Council attended the hui that launched on Wednesday and was co-ordinated by Ra Smith, environmental consultant for Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa.
"The hui was basically about kaitiakitanga [guardianship] and getting people enthusiastic about caring for and getting a plan together for our waterways and rivers.
"Like the dairying that is devastating our rivers here in Wairarapa and the resource consents being given out to that sector," she said.
"We've got no water in some of our streams and rivers anymore. I live at Pirinoa and the local supply is getting very low. It's rather dire and Greater Wellington seems to be giving out consents left and right to farmers.
"It's crazy that there are dry river beds but green paddocks and sprinklers going all year round. It's become a real problem."
Ms Te Maari said Gail Tipa, of Ngai Tahu, spoke at the hui about how representatives from the different groups "could measure the health of water from a cultural perspective".
The group was told cultural indicators could include metrics such as the variety and number of fish species, the abundance of aquatic insects, and the preponderance of slime in Wairarapa rivers and waterways.
"The hui also included a field trip around Wairarapa Moana [Lake Wairarapa] where council staff had caught different varieties of native and pest fish for us to look at," she said.
"It was all very exciting because we are seeing a movement of Maori taking more of a role in the management of this precious resource."