The special tribunal considering the Ngaruroro and Clive Rivers Water Conservation Order (WCO) is to consider whether or not to seek wider public input into the issue, given the new science available on the hydraulic connections between the two rivers.

Filed by six groups, the controversial application seeks to restrict water taken from the Ngaruroro River and 7km of the Clive River, to protect and preserve their "outstanding values".

Nearly 400 submissions were received on the application, with a near-even split for and against.

The first hearings into the matter were held last year when opponents, mainly local primary producers, held a rally to voice concerns about the potential impact on the local economy and employment, and called for the findings of the ongoing TANK water management process to be considered during deliberations.


The tribunal accepted this and split the hearings into two in order to allow time for the TANK science to be completed.

At first delayed until July this year, a further extension for the second stage of hearings had been approved, with the parties to the process due to meet in October to discuss the timetable.

In a minute released this month, the tribunal resolved that the regional council would make the TANK group's final recommendations on a draft plan change available to the tribunal on August 30.

It was also agreed that the WCO applicants would circulate a third version the draft WCO to the tribunal by September 14.

In the meantime, given that wider hydraulic connections to the Ngaruroro and Clive Rivers had been found through recent science investigations, the tribunal discussed the need for additional notification for those who may not have been made aware of the WCO application in the initial notification in July 2017.

The tribunal invited any party to submit on the matter, an invitation taken up by six to date including Federated Farmers, Horticulture New Zealand and Hawke's Bay Winegrowers, who supported full public re-notification, and the applicants who said this was not necessary.

A rally opposing the WCO was held in Hastings in September last year. Photo / File
A rally opposing the WCO was held in Hastings in September last year. Photo / File

In its submission, Hawke's Bay Winegrowers said it believed there were risks to only notifying existing consent holders.

"Any effects on existing consent holders are likely to be felt more widely, and those affected down the chain - including the 'community' - may wish to have their say.

"In addition, there may be landowners (or occupiers) who do not yet hold consents, but may have aspirations to seek consents that would relate to hydraulically connected groundwater and so could be affected by the WCO," their submission said.

They also said there should be no restriction on who could submit and what issues they submitted on.

Federated Farmers said at the very least further notification was appropriate to enable all users to participate in the tribunal process.

The applicants, however, said further notification was unnecessary as the original notification had been sufficient and correct and widely publicised, taking into account hydraulically connected groundwater.

They said the application had no effect on existing consent holders, and it had been made clear that the intent of the WCO was not to impact on the ability of those consent holders to obtain new consents on similar terms.

They added that "further notification will be disruptive to the complex process underway".

The tribunal said it would issue a direction after considering all the submissions received.