Wairoa locals want the government to step in and investigate why it has taken months for a privately-owned dam to be fixed, which has cost ratepayers and businesses tens of thousands of dollars.
Eastland Group's sluice gate at Waihi Dam was damaged before Christmas and was letting silt into waterways in the area where drinking and stock water was taken from.
It only got fixed last week, and Hawke's Bay Regional Council chair Fenton Wilson said it had been nothing short of an environmental disaster, although locals have called its response to the situation weak.
Sheena Martin - a local sheep and beef farmer who lives across the valley from the Waihi Dam - said the situation has had a huge impact on her livelihood.
"As for the effect on the farm, it's just been huge. It's just destroyed our entire summer. We've had to sell stock early, we've had to sell stock at a lot [less] weight because we just haven't had the water supply. It's been really stressful knowing you can do nothing."
Ms Martin said she believed Eastland Group have been negligent in their dealings with locals and the regional council had been weak in its response to the company, and she wanted to see the government step in.
"I actually think there should be a major government inquiry into both Eastland Group's running and maintenance of the dam and dealing with the after effect and the regional council's monitoring and dealing with it. Because this is only small scale compared to Ruataniwha. And it may be fine for the first ten years, but if they get this same thing happen with Ruataniwha down the track it'll be colossal," Ms Martin said.
Paul Kelly is the vice chairman of the district council's Maori Standing Committee, he represents Matangirau, or the lower end of the Wairoa River.
The river has been the focal point for local iwi since ancient times - and with 61 percent of the town's population Maori, and 35 marae on the Wairoa River - anything that affected the river affected them, he said.
"We wanted to issue a rahui on the area, which in Maori terms means we close it down, nobody goes there until the land repairs itself or is repaired. There's no fish in the river, there's no plant life in the river - that's how bad it is...it's like a moonscape and it's just absolutely contaminated with this silty rubbish."
Mr Kelly said he wanted Eastland Group to be doing more to clear up the silt its damaged gates let in.
"It's a dirty horrible colour. The kids are usually jumping off the bridge. I was talking to some kids down here opposite the WINZ office the other day, they were jumping off a tree into the river. I said 'how's the water, boys?' and they said 'oh, it stinks mister'."
Both Mr Kelly and Ms Martin said they felt Wairoa was treated like poor relations by the regional council.
Wairoa District Mayor Craig Little said cleaning up the area's drinking water had cost thousands a week, which he did not want rate payers to foot the bill for, and the district council would be seeking to recovers costs.
Mr Wilson said the regional council had done everything it could within the law and was very unhappy with the time it had taken the company to fix the gate.
The council was investigating and the case could end up in court, he said.
Eastland Group said it had worked diligently and with urgency to get the sluice gates fixed, and had people onsite working seven days a week for long hours and in arduous circumstances.