Our rivers and streams are precious to us but most of us don't normally think about what's happening to surface flow, or the aquifers below.

We're consulting right now to get your feedback on the draft plan for Heretaunga's waterways. This will help the regional council protect and improve the Tūtaekurī, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamū waterways, and the Heretaunga aquifer. We call this freshwater project the TANK Plan.

The state of our waterways is the regional council's highest priority. We live in a unique region where primary production is at the heart of our economy. As environmental regulator, the regional council has to maintain the balance between putting the environment first and opportunities that help us to grow our economy. We approach this work in line with the Resource Management Act and the Government's objectives to clean
up rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands – in harmony with a healthy economy.

The TANK Plan covers the area where Napier and Hastings people, growers and industries source the water we use at home, at work, to irrigate fields and enable our thriving economy. We also value this same water for cultural practices, biodiversity and recreation. Once the regional council gets this plan over the line, we'll have new rules and limits to deal with the effects of land and water use, and better manage water quality and water allocation.

We welcome all comments and views. We want to deliver a Plan Change for the TANK area that caters for all the values for water that matter to our people, and the various water uses that help our region to thrive.

Many people have been caught up in Covid-19 impacts and a very tough drought which is by no means over. These will continue to affect our GDP well into 2021. Recognising the pressure these events have placed on our community and your ability to respond to this Plan, we have extended the date for submissions to August 14. This is mainly to help farmers, iwi, partner councils and agencies to formulate their submissions to the TANK Plan.

Once we receive your submissions on the plan we will arrange the next steps in this process. And once we have a plan in place for the TANK catchments, we will all have more certainty.

If the long-term health of these waterways matters to you, please be a voice for our rivers, our Heretaunga aquifer and our economy.

TANK is vital for a healthy Heretaunga and our wider economy – providing job security and employment. Everyone will benefit from the certainty of firm rules that protect our water resource.

• Rex Graham is chairman of Hawke's Bay regional council.