"More time" is what Central Hawke's Bay water users are appealing for, after they were left high and dry in the face of restrictions without the security of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

Led by CHB Mayor Alex Walker, a delegation of Ruataniwha Water Users Group (RWUG) members appealed to a Hawke's Bay Regional Council committee yesterday to consider extending the deadline for water restrictions, which they fear will have a "severe" impact on the agriculture-driven district.

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It was initially thought CHB water users would have up to five years to adapt to new flow regimes under Plan Change Six (PC6) - a Tukituki catchment focused plan change.


Facing a restriction of their surface water takes, many signed up to the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme for a secure water supply - but the RWSS was dealt a Supreme Court-blow in July, less than a year from when the first of PC6's new minimum flow limits take effect.

Yesterday Ms Walker said the community were at a "pinch point" - although they were searching for alternative ways to ensure water quantity, and water quality, they were running out of time.

The likely reduction in water take under PC6 would hurt the agriculture-driven district - with some businesses left struggling to survive, and others facing losses in the hundreds of thousands.

This would have a "ripple effect", affecting families, and the wider community.

Pushing the dates out was "crucial to the health and vitality of our community", because they needed time to collaborate, come up with innovative solutions, and invest in ensuring water quality, and quantity.

When asked, she said five years might be needed.

Bel Group managing director Greg Mills told the committee solutions had been brainstormed - including private, and shared water storage - but these could not be implemented in the time frame.

"You as a council have the choice ... around considering the request to defer, and what that time frame is.

"If you want to shrink the time frame, we'll find a solution all right, but it will be a fast solution, it may not be the best solution."

The committee was told extending the time frame for PC6 could require another plan change - which council chairman Rex Graham said would not be simple.

Running RWSS alongside PC6 had been a high risk strategy, and he thought the CHB community needed time to re-look at the situation.

"I'm a very strong supporter of giving time and going into battle on that. We will be going into battle on that, we shouldn't underestimate that."

Relations have been strained between the CHB, and regional councils over the RWSS.

Councillor Paul Bailey noted, "The war's over, we've got to work on peace. We're at the point where we need to be sitting down and talking to each other."

While some members like Mike Mohi quickly supported the extension, others like Toro Waaka said there needed to be "more weighting on health of the environment than the wealth of the people".

Others felt they were "not prepared to throw this community under the bus", but wanted assurances if the deadline were extended, CHB users would put steps in place.

"If we agree to give time ... people of Central Hawke's Bay do not regard this as a free pass, because it's been quite frustrating watching the process of PC6 in your community," councillor Peter Beaven said.

"Your community needs to be galvanised to support this council in executing whatever Plan Change Six ends up looking like."

Ms Walker said they were "100 per cent committed" to meeting requirements around water quality, but could not achieve this without council's support in achieving water quantity.

Aside from receiving the report, no decision was required yesterday. The PC6 flow increase will take effect for tributaries in May 2018, and for the Tukituki mainstream from Red Bridge in two stages in 2018, and then 2023.