The Conservation Authority has recommended that a Government agency should take control of protection of rivers.
After an 18-month study into the state of rivers, the authority has put forward 19 recommendations.
Chair Kay Booth says councils and government departments have been ignoring the need for river protection, which has meant the quality of the waterways has been reduced.
She says appointing a Government or quasi-Government agency specifically responsible for river protection, could reverse the trend.
But Local Government New Zealand says councils would oppose an overarching agency, because they believe they know their waterways best.