Water conservation order protest misguided say hapū

Ngāti Hori ki Kohupatiki are one of six groups that lodged a now controversial water conservation order on two of Hawke's Bays major rivers, an order that yesterday saw hundreds protest against it, but Ngāti Hori say protestors have got it wrong.

"This is not a new outcome for Kohupatiki, we didn't decide this last week," says Ngāti Hori elder Arconnehi Paipper.

"The bottom line is the river first," and their application reflects years of work towards the restoration of their river.

Their pā site Kohupatiki is right next to the Ngaruroro. A river they've seen deteriorate drastically over the years and their application would see the mauri of that river and the Clive River protected.

"The WCO just halts everything that's going to happen in the future. So it gives the river the chance to heal itself," says Kohupatiki Marae Chairperson Margie McGuire.

"The water conservation order does not change the already consented water takes, it doesn't, but it prevents it from further takes that diminish the water levels that are required for endemic species," says Paipper.

Species like the flounder and the eel have depleted significantly over the years, species they've monitored through Operation Patiki, an initiative designed to protect and restore the black flounder.

Yesterday hundreds of angry horticulturalists, irrigators and their workers rallied against the order concerned their allocated water takes would be reduced drastically.

"We use 55,000 litres a second as a community as it stands how the application is we're actually only allowed to take 1500 litres a little bit more, almost 1600 litres a second as a community," says Jerf Van Beek (Twyford Irrigators Group).

"The WCO does not take away any existing water consents that are valid with the authorities and the misconception is that they're going to have their water takes reduced drastically because of the WCO if it eventuates," says McGuire.

Ngāti Hori ki Kohupatiki and five other environmental organisations lodged the order and in 2016 it was referred to a special tribunal for consideration.

To date, 388 submissions have been received by the Environmental Protection Authority, however, a final decision is still pending.