Northland Regional Council's chairman says he agrees with Maori who oppose the granting of long term water rights.
Hapu in Whangarei are objecting to 35 year resource consents for taking freshwater issued by the council to farmers and irrigators.
The hapu say the lengthy terms amount to ownership, when their rights are still to be determined.
They say the consents could also subvert the Government's freshwater management reforms, which allow communities to set freshwater quality standards.
Council chairman Craig Brown, a former dairy farmer, says the present system of granting water rights does not address competing demands, future needs or the impact of climate change.
He says the first-come, first-served system effectively locks up the water for decades in the hands of a few users.
The Whangarei hapu are appealing in the Environment Court against several 35 year water rights granted by the regional council.