Growers have been left fuming after a Waikato Regional Council decision to withdraw a giant section of the region from its Healthy Rivers plan.

The proposal is designed to clean up the Waikato and Waipa Rivers to make them swimmable in about 80 years.

But on Monday, WRC announced it was withdrawing 120,000 hectares, or 11 per cent of the total land included, from the reforms over a lack of consultation with local iwi.

The area withdrawn covers Te Kauwhata, Meremere, Mercer, Pokeno, Waeranga and Maramarua, along with parts of the Waikato River and a series of wetlands, rivers and streams.


Council chief executive Vaughan Payne said the area could be re-incorporated back into the main plan next year after consultation with Hauraki iwi.

But Horticulture New Zealand says having two separate areas for the plan would leave some farmers at a disadvantage and says some may even be left managing land on both sides of the rule-line.

Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association chair Brent Wilcox is one of those. "I will have different properties on different sides of this very divisive line. So part of my business will be operating under different rules to the other parts. This makes no sense," he said.

Horticulture New Zealand chief Mike Chapman has called for the council to drop the plan entirely until all consultation is completed.

"To now start splitting the Waikato up for extra consultation while the neighbouring area remains in the process is flawed, and unfair to the growers and the community," he said.

The plan will require all farmers to exclude stock from some waterways and sets leeching limits on farms.

Submissions on the changes close in March and farmers have criticised the changes due to what they say will be high compliance costs.