A group which asked for a protection order for two Hawke's Bay rivers say they are disappointed the Hawke's Bay Regional Council has come out against the initiative.
The council agreed at a February 3 meeting to write to Environment Minister Nick Smith opposing the Water Conservation Order application for the Ngaruroro and Clive rivers.
The application was lodged with the minister by a group of organisations including Fish & Game, Ngati Hori ki Kohupatiki, Forest & Bird, Whitewater NZ and Jet Boating NZ.
The conservation order is the highest level of protection that can be given to a river or lake - New Zealand presently has 15 orders.
The group's chairman, Doug Rankin, said the council decision was baffling.
Council was not likely representing Hawke's Bay residents' views on the issue, he said.
"All the WCO applicants are at a loss to understand how the council could be so out of step with locals, including iwi. As a regional council purporting to represent the views of ratepayers, its position is not reflecting the wider community's views."
Fish & Game's chief executive Bryce Johnson said: "The council's actions seem to indicate it is struggling to recognise the law in this matter and I doubt the councillors or their advisers have even actually read the relevant legislation."
Ngati Hori ki Kohupatiki spokeswoman Akenehi Paipa said the council should be supporting, rather than opposing, the application.
Council strategic development group manager James Palmer said it was premature to consider an order application for the rivers while a planning process was already under way in that catchment. He indicated council did not oppose the consideration of an order, but questioned the timing and the best process.
"HBRC agrees it is necessary to protect the outstanding values of some parts of the Ngaruroro River and believes this will happen through the current TANK planning process."
TANK is a plan change project working collaboratively with a wide group of stakeholders aiming to set limits, measures and a monitoring regime to manage water resources in the Tutaekur, greater Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karam catchments.
"By law we are required to protect significant values of outstanding water bodies in the region, so the WCO will duplicate effort for local communities and the council but in a process that is not locally driven."
The council considered a future application could be made following the TANK process.