Ashburton residents have had enough of being told what to do with their water.

More than 50 residents attended a meeting in the town last night.

They voted to challenge the district council into halting the sale of a portion of land which has a consent to take 40 billion litres of water from a local aquifer over 30 years.

If it doesn't, they'll take Environment Canterbury (ECan) to the High Court for a judicial review, but that would cost $80,000 to $90,000.


Bung the Bore's Jennifer Branje says the Ashburton River is in dire straits, with algae blooms and people being told not to use their hoses or taps.

She says despite this, the council sees fit to virtually give away 35 years worth of water.

Public support for Ashburton's mayor, who didn't attend the meeting, and council appears to be dropping quickly as the debate continues over the district's water sale.

Mayor Angus McKay says he is open to discussions on the sale of the land.

He says the invitation is still open for residents to come and talk to him, and they have the right to challenge whatever they want.

It's thought the interested company has until the end of June to come up with the money.

Ashburton residents were disappointed at the lack of council participation in the latest meeting over the district's water sales.

Three local councillors attended the meeting but didn't comment on the matter - Mr McKay and local MP Jo Goodhew were no-shows.

Resident Karen Palmer says it's not good enough that other prominent leaders didn't attend the meeting.

She says they all expected the Mayor and local MP to attend and discuss such a critical proposition facing the district.

The lack of council participation last night was noted by many, and resident Sian Osmund says they feel they're being railroaded.

She says too many decisions are being made in closed committees, rather than in the public sphere.

The battle over just who owns our water is being fought across the country.

Water ownership is also an in issue in Hawke's Bay. Regional councillor Peter Beaven says everyone should own the precious resource.