The kiwifruit industry has expressed concerns over Tauranga City Council moves to restrict horticulture access to the city water supply.
The council sought submissions on drafts of the Water Supply, Bylaw Water Meter Policy and Large Water Users Policy last year and held submission hearings on Monday.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated chief executive Nikki Johnson and senior policy analyst Sarah Cameron spoke at the council's Environment Committee meeting to challenge the horticulture industry's categorisation as a low priority water user, based on the economic significance of the industry to the region.
About 14 kiwifruit orchards were connected to the city supply through 24 metered connections. Two of these meters were in Bethlehem on a council-owned landblock, while the rest were in Matapihi.
Cameron said they understood kiwifruit was classed as low priority, meaning growers would be denied as a large water user unless peak water demand occurred outside of the peak time.
There was a significant risk of compromising plant health and fruit size if water access was restricted, which would impact financial returns, she said.
"It is our view that giving a low priority for horticulture purposes has the potential to directly impact on the economic viability of growing kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty."
The submission noted that sports and leisure facilities had been assessed as having a medium water use priority and said that water use for horticulture purposes should have a higher importance.
Johnson said they were broadly exploring other options but it was not something that had been investigated on a case by case basis yet.
Councillor Larry Baldock said it did not make sense to treat water so that it was drinkable, then use it for horticulture.
Johnson responded the water quality did not need to be at the same level needed for drinking but there were minimum requirements for water quality.