The Central Hawke's Bay community has been "let down" over their appeal for more time to find solutions ahead of restrictive water takes, the district's mayor says.
Members of the rural community had implored the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to extend the deadline to meet new minimum-flow and allocation limits under its Tukituki catchment-focused plan change - Plan Change Six (PC6).
This new flow regime - which comes in next year - sets a standard for the water level of the Tukituki River, below which point irrigation bans will be imposed.
This would raise the current minimum flow from 3500 litres a second to 4300 litres a second by July 2018 at one location. This would go up to 5200 litres a second in July 2023.
But any extension looks unlikely after a recommendation for council staff to begin discussions about deferring PC6 dates through a plan change was lost by one vote at a regional planning committee meeting earlier this week.
Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker said she was extremely disappointed, as their community had been subjected to a "confused and badly communicated process around the development of this catchment plan and now in its implementation".
"As a direct result 13,850 people in this district are going to experience the social and economic effects of restricted water takes until we can find other sustainable solutions."
When asked, she said the district had been let down because the PC6 process appeared to be driven by the ill-fated Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme (RWSS).
"That was what we were all focused on, this transformational change which was going to allow us economic, social, and environmental outcomes," she said.
"As that process has gone on it has limited the capacity that we've had to think about, and problem-solve about the rest of the plan change.
"We were focused on the benefits that [the RWSS] was going to bring to the region."
When asked, Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Rex Graham said he thought it was fair of Ms Walker to feel this way as the community had been "very locked into Ruataniwha".
"They weren't looking at other options, they weren't thinking of other things, they were totally convinced that [the RWSS] was going to proceed, and that in itself has come as a big shock to them that it didn't."
A staunch opponent of the RWSS he had voted for Wednesday's recommendation, and said he had been disappointed at the outcome.
"I was extremely disappointed that we weren't able to give this community, or give our staff a bit of time to assess whether the options of giving the community more time was viable.
"Because that was all the vote was about ... it was about a month."
At the meeting 10 members voted for the recommendation to discuss a plan change, while four voted against. The committee needed 11 "for" votes out of 14 for anything to be passed.
However Mr Graham said this was not the end of the road.
"There are still options, there's options for CHB to run this themselves, there's options for individuals to run the process themselves. There's another option that we actually think about it and we re-present to the [committee] again, it's not a lost cause."
Ms Walker said these options meant she was not ready to "leave the conversation".
"I am confident that Central Hawke's Bay District Council and the Hawke's Bay Regional Council are in a far more collaborative and open space than potentially we were before. I think we can work together on what is a solution."