Hawke's Bay Regional Council member Tom Belford sent protesters packing - to a colleague's house.

The chanting group with placards were voicing concern on Saturday about the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's handling of the Heretaunga Plains aquifer.

"I knew they were going to march off some place I commented something to the effect, 'If you want to deliver a message to someone who counts then you should be taking a walk to Christine Scott's house' - she's been a councillor since 2001 and presents herself as the authority on water issues," he said yesterday.

Consents to take water for bottling from the Heretaunga Plains aquifer, the region's most significant water source, have raised concerns recently with an Awatoto company given permission to take up to 405 million litres a year while a Hastings consentholder will be able to take up to 500 million litres a year from July.


This month Lowe Corporation successfully applied to alter its water-take consent to allow "water bottling". The consent allows it to take up to 1.22 billion litres of water a year from a bore beside its Tomoana Pelt Processors factory in Whakatu.

Once an avid protester herself, Mrs Scott understood the frustrations of those standing at her gate.

It didn't bother her that they had shown up unannounced.

"I was happy for them to have a reasonable talk with me." She couldn't come out and address their concerns because she was looking after her grand-niece.

However, she believed the issue needed to be discussed.

"They need to know they [staff] weren't going to let the region's stocks run dry. It's about where you are getting the water from and if it's going to have an effect - if it does get to a stage where too much is taken it will be stopped or cut back."

Mr Belford wants resource consents to land in councillors' laps to avoid something slipping though unnoticed. Council staff - not councillors - handle resource consents.

"They come in innocuously enough. Taken individually they are of minor importance. At some point you have to deal with the cumulative effect. If you keep giving these out it's going to stack up."

Mr Belford also said resource consent applications should be publicly notified so the process was more transparent.

Council chairman Fenton Wilson said instead of steering people to another councillor Mr Belford should have given the protesters the facts and cleared up their misunderstanding.

"He sent people who were without the facts to a councillor's doorstep ... It's a cowardly act. It's ridiculous."

Mr Wilson admired Mrs Scott for not "picking and choosing" when to be a councillor.

"She gives 110 per cent for this community. She's been around for many years and is the most well-read councillor."

He said the debate surrounding water takes for water bottling was a national issue.

"The rest of the world has realised we have an abundance of fresh, clean water."

Mr Wilson stood behind the staff that granted consents. Elected representatives "rightly" had no say in who did or did not get a consent, Mr Wilson said.

Councillors often received financial backing when standing for election so it wouldn't be right for them to essentially "pick winners".

Those who met the resource management act requirements were entitled to a consent.

Guardians of the Aquifer campaigners want the council to fast-track a plan change to publicly notify any Resource Management Act [RMA] applications for mineral exploration or exploitation which could impinge on the water catchment area.

They would also like to see all applications require full council authority.

Submissions will be heard from June 8 to 10.

Protest spokeswoman Pauline Doyle said only then would it become clear if the protest had made any impact.