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Central Otago communities will be called upon to guide the way forward for the minimum flow process on three rivers.
This was likely to include the setting of minimum flows in areas with high numbers of 100-year-old water-take permits which expire in 2021.
Last week, councillors were presented with three options for setting limits and objectives for those rivers and how that would fit with Otago-wide water work.
Councillors were unhappy with those options because of timing and resource and double-handling issues.
They instead opted to consult with the communities of the priority catchments about alternative ways to progress.
Cr Gretchen Robertson said all options were ''disappointing''.
''We shouldn't be making a black-and-white decision today. People don't want to do the process twice.
''I think we need to go back to the community and say we have to work together. The options today are not meeting the need.''
Cr Graeme Bell said he had ''always been pushing'' for that kind of arrangement.
Cr Andrew Noone said he was ''delighted'' as the options were like trying to ''squeeze a round document into a square hole''.
Cr Ella Lawton said she was concerned the priority catchments could get preferential treatment over the rest of Otago.