International opposition to 16 new dairy farms, with up to 17,850 cows in cubicles, in the Omarama and Ohau areas is resulting in a flood of submissions into Environment Canterbury.

The intensive public interest has prompted Environment Canterbury (ECan) to create a special section on its internet home page to cope with the number of inquiries it is receiving.

Publicity about the proposals, which is already causing controversy in New Zealand with claims of "factory farming", prompted 640 submissions up until Wednesday.

When staff arrived at work yesterday morning, another 470 had been filed in ECan's electronic mailbox for processing, chief executive Bryan Jenkins said.

At times, submissions yesterday were being received at the rate of 20 an hour from all around New Zealand and overseas.

Dr Jenkins expected the number to reach 1500 by the end of yesterday.

Publicity about the proposals on international internet websites have prompted submissions from as far away as Australia, France and Great Britain.

Some of the submissions are linking the issue of animal welfare, arising from housing cows in cubicles full-time for eight months of the year and 12 hours a day for four months, with environmental issues.

Submissions on the plans by two companies - Five Rivers and Southdown Holdings - close on December 18 at 5pm with ECan. Submissions on the Williamson Holdings proposal close on January 18.

The three applications and submissions will be considered by an independent panel of commissioners early next year on dates to be set.

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES