Ngati Pahauwera says river quality in Hawke's Bay is so bad that it's having to step in and use its Treaty settlement money to do something about it.
The tribe has received $2 million from the Crown, which will be spent on its own restoration programme for the Waihau, Mohaka and Waikari rivers.
Iwi Development Trust chair Toro Waaka says it will focus on fencing tributaries, and planting native trees to improve water quality and fish numbers.
The regional councils are often lobbied by different groups with their own interests, such as farmers, and haven't been good kaitiaki or guardians, Mr Waaka says.
The iwi is doing it only because it has a responsibility, as kaitiaki, to do what needs to be done to ensure the river, which is a taonga, is safe for future generations, he says.
The final part of the project will be to look at sustainability options.