Tractor rally a water restrictions flow-on

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 19/09/2013
Hastings tractor protest
JOHN COWPLAND/Fairfax NZ

GETTING TRACTION: The tractor protest winds its way through Hastings.

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Hundreds of tractors clogged the streets of Hastings yesterday as growers displayed their dissatisfaction with regional council members.

The Grower Action Group organised the protest as part of its campaign to throw out the incumbent Hawke's Bay Regional Council because of its hardline stance on riverflow limits.

About 500 people gathered yesterday to listen to the group's grievances. Spokesman Paul Paynter said the council threatened people's livelihoods when it blocked water takes during last summer's drought.

"Water is the lifeblood of Hawke's Bay. It was a terrorist act."

In 2011, the council imposed a minimum flow rate of 2400 litres a second for the Ngarororo River and Raupare Stream after it found taking water from the groundwater bores near the waterways affected their flows.

Previously the water takes were not tied to the river's flow.

Last summer's drought meant water was turned off for several periods.

The council maintains that the flow limits are needed to protect ecology of the rivers. It is funding a study to investigate the impact of each water take in the area.

Mr Paynter said the jury was out on how damaging the water restrictions were to this season's crops. Trees had died or been badly damaged by the lack of water, which cut grower incomes and hurt the regional economy.

The group is calling for change and backing a group of council candidates who sympathise with its view. Some members had provided financial backing to their preferred candidates, who were Rick Barker, Peter Beaven, Rex Graham, Tom Belford and Ngahiwi Tomoana.

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