A far-reaching process to restore the "health and wellbeing" of the Waikato and Waipa rivers has won the backing of river iwi.
A report from a joint working party representing the regional council and five Waikato and Waipa river iwi is expected to be presented to the regional council's land and water quality subcommittee today.
The report recommends the council start the development of a plan change to the Waikato Regional Plan to address the effects of discharges to land and water in the Waikato and Waipa river catchments.
The regional plan contains policies to manage the region's natural and physical resources.
Regional council policy and transport group manager Vaughan Payne said river settlement legislation required the council "as a first step" to get agreement with river iwi on any rule changes around the Waikato River.
"What we've now got is an agreement from river iwi to commence a review," Mr Payne said, adding the council's monitoring had shown a decline in the Waikato River's water quality.
"The fact we have agreement with iwi to undertake this review and that it's been given the highest priority is important. The next big milestone is agreeing on what water quality targets we want to achieve and then agree on options to achieve that."
Mr Payne said any decision to change the Waikato Regional Plan would involve extensive consultation with affected parties ahead of a formal submission process.
"We would love to move quicker but we need to make sure we take people with us, particularly iwi, farmers and local communities."
Regional chairman Peter Buckley said any proposed changes to the regional plan could take years to implement and would not be "rushed".
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