Hawke's Bay's iconic waka has been forced to cancel its cruise ship tours due to mud in the Clive River.

Owners Jim and Marie Edwards said it was a massive disappointment, and they are now considering whether they move the business to another region, such as Taupō.

"It is a sad blow for my wife and I," Edwards said.

The waka, called Nga Tukemata o Kahungunu, is the only fully carved war waka used on a regular basis in New Zealand.

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"The only other time the fully carved ones come out is on Waitangi Day, or special royalty members or government members," Edwards said.

"Our one is there for all nationalities, male and female, that's why we're so proud of doing what we did."

Edwards spent the last six months refurbishing the waka, at a cost of $17,000, meaning having to shut down for cruise ships was an extra blow.

The mud problem was only an issue at low tide, and the waka will continue to run educational tours for school groups and some other organised groups, who are able to wait for high tide.

Cruise ships are not able to be as flexible, due to only spending a small amount of time in port in Napier.

The Clive River is dredged, on average, once every 10 years, and was last done in 2007.

The next dredging is scheduled for 2019/2020.

Earlier this year, Hawke's Bay Regional Council cleared away the mud where the waka berths, as an interim solution for Edwards.

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Edwards said there needed to be a longer term solution, as dredging cost the council close to $1 million every time it was done.

He said wildlife that lives in the banks of the river slowly eat it away, widening the river, which in turn makes it shallower.

"If that keeps going you're going to have a wide, shallow water, rather than a deep channel."

He felt if the river could be narrowed again the water flow would improve.

"I don't want to see the Clive disappear, because it has a great history."

Edwards had looked at other options, such as running the tours in Napier, rather than on the Clive, but were told by the Napier Sailing Club there was no berth space available due to the waka's size.

Of the 74 cruise ships booked to visit Hawke's Bay this season, 17 were offering the waka tours to their guests.