The Maori owners of a reserve which includes the Poroti Springs and Waipao Stream in Whangarei, are fine-tuning their claim on it, for the Waitangi Tribunal.
The tribunal's agreed to an urgent hearing of claims over fresh water, filed by the Maori Council and 10 hapu, including the people of Poroti, west of Whangarei.
Te Parawhau, Te Uriroroi and Te Mahurehure ki Whatitiri are kaitiaki of the Poroti Springs and the Waipao stream and own the land around the springs, as the Whatitiri Maori Reserve Trust.
But a trustee Meryl Carter says the hapu have no control over the water rights, or the commercial users of the water, who include the district council, and a water-bottling company.
She says the hapu want, at the very least, co-governance, in the form of an equal presence on the regional council committees that protect the water and allocate it.
Ms Carter says the hapu believe their rights to the springs and the stream have never been recognised in law, and they welcome the tribunal decision to investigate.
The Waitangi Tribunal says the Government's plan to reform freshwater management may create tradable use-rights, and Maori rights must be determined before new property rights are created.