New Zealand Maori Council member Maanu Paul says the Government's national policy statement on freshwater management allows regulatory authorities to sideline Maori.
The Maori Party has welcomed the statement as acknowledging the significant relationship between iwi and fresh water.
But Mr Paul says the policy that councils ''shall take reasonable steps to involve iwi and hapu in the management of'' water is open to abuse.
''What if that regional council decides 'we've spoken to one Maori - that'll do us', '' he said. ''It's really not worth the paper it's written on.''
Mr Paul said the Government failed to properly consult Maori while drawing up the national policy statement.