The light punishment handed out to a landowner who dammed a stream near Porotī Springs and dug out a wetland is unacceptable, the spring's Māori owners say.
The farmer who created an unlawful lake near the springs, near Whangarei, has been fined $500 and asked to apply for a retrospective resource consent for the lake
Environmental River Patrol founder Millan Ruka, who spotted the new lake on Google Earth, said the Northland Regional Council should have prosecuted the man.
Locals had queried what harm had been done, he said.
But if Māori did the same with their wetland, local irrigators would be in trouble, he said.
All wetlands feed into local streams, and if Porotī Māori chose to dam their wetlands, water flows would be reduced by 75 percent, Mr Ruka said.
The council said the unlawful lake would not affect the hydrology at Porotī, because once it was full it would overflow.
Because the wetland was not indigenous, the lake could gain consent under regional planning rules, the council said.