Although it was mentioned several times that it was not a political occasion, candidates vying for votes in this year's election featured among the speakers at yesterday's rally protesting the proposed Ngaruroro River Water Conservation Order (WCO).

Ikaroa Rawhiti Maori Party candidate Marama Fox, waving her party flag, may not have got the memo on how the rally was focused on the plight of Hawke's Bay growers, processors and the region if the WCO was adopted.

"This is not just about the WCO and you all know it. It's about the water and how we are going to protect it for future generations," she said.

She recalled when the Ngaruroro and Tukituki Rivers used to flow from bank to bank.


"How often do we see that now? This is not about how much to irrigate our grapes, it's about deciding whether or not to run a bath tonight or send the kids down to the river to have a wash because we can't afford to buy water when it runs out - and it never used to run out."

She said Maori had lived on those rivers for the last 1000 years and understood how to live with the environment and not against it.

"Do not think this is not about politics - we're having an election on Saturday, which is going to give one party or the other the decision-making power on how much to charge you for using that water."

She put everyone on notice that there was one law that superseded all others - the Treaty of Waitangi - despite people being at the rally who had interests akin to ownership, she said.

"We can do things a different way if you include us. All iwi and hapu have been left out of the equation for far too long - we were not allocated water because we owned land communally. Don't forget iwi and Maori when you have the conversation."

Dressed in a "No to the WCO" T-shirt and bright blue vest National candidate Lawrence Yule said he was appalled by the WCO application that was largely driven out of Wellington with little local input.

Two of the applicants to the WCO, however, were local: Hawke's Bay Fish and Game and Ngāti Hori ki Kohupatiki.

Mr Yule noted the "treacherous behaviour" to the TANK process, which they were all involved in, including the two local WCO applicants, at the beginning.

"We've never had it so good in this region - people here today, your bottom lines have never been so good - we need to look after the water and do things better but we need to do it together.

"TANK, with the leadership of Rex [Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Rex Graham] and others like him will make it happen."

He said he opposed the WCO, and the Labour Party's proposed water tax.

"I am with you completely."

Labour candidate Anna Lorck donned black and white to push her point that it wasn't about being Left or Right, it was about unity.

"Growers and farmers are well known for getting tractors out to stand up for what they believe in, but what's different about this rally is it's about the rural and urban people - we have all come together.

"This WCO and what it stands for could impact not only on those who live on the land but those who live and work in Hastings and Napier."

With "local" being a predominant platform for her campaign she exhorted the power of local democracy.

"It's a local decision involving local stakeholders - I support this local approach not one directed on us from Wellington. As locals I say no to the WCO."