The water rights debate is about more than simply stopping state asset sales, according to Federated Farmers.
The issue takes centre stage again tomorrow as an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing continues in Lower Hutt.
Federated farmers water spokesperson Ian McKenzie said it is a complicated issue with far wider implications than the sale of assets.
"If you go to ownership, then I would have thought you would have had to go the whole hog and go to ownership which is what they have in Australia and parts of America," he told TV ONE's Marae Investigates this morning.
"That means whoever owns water has private property rights in the water which doesn't exist in New Zealand at the moment."
McKenzie said he sympathised with concern from Maori that water is being privatised by stealth.
"I sympathise with the Maori position that they would like clarification on who owns and doesn't own water, or if there isn't ownership why are they not part of the ownership stake.
"The asset sales might be a trigger for that, but I don't see that that's part of the issue of asset sales. Asset sales, they're selling the asset, which is infrastructure, to generate electricity. The consents are still subject to the same social contract with the people of New Zealand and can be reviewed."
He said he thought it was "highly likely" that in some circumstances Maori will be part of a co-governance body which grants consents.
The Waitangi Tribunal is part way through an urgent hearing on the issue, with the Maori Council trying to convince it the partial sale of state owned energy companies should be delayed while there are still questions over water rights.
Prime Minister John Key further fuelled the debate when he said the Government could ignore the Tribunal's findings.
Mana Party leader Hone Harawira said he is concerned what that stance may signal.
"If the Maori Council gets a good ruling from the Tribunal, takes it to the High Court, gets a positive ruling there, I have no doubt that John Key will legislate to take control of the water," Harawira said on Q A this morning.
The Tribunal's then expected to give a final recommendation by the end of the month.