A beach protest is being organised in Tauranga to fight the growth of the water bottling industry in the Eastern Bay.

The protesters are targeting bottling plants' use of plastic bottles and the additional traffic the plants will create in Tauranga, but one company says the claims are exaggerated.

The Cresswell NZ water bottling plant at Otakiri Springs, owned by Chinese company Nongfu Spring, has consent to expand its operation.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council consents will be appealed in the Environment Court next week by Sustainable Otakiri, a crowdfunded group.

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Plans for two larger bottling plants in Murupara were being developed by Ngāti Manawa Incorporation, New Zealand Aquifer and an as-yet unknown foreign investor.

In a statement about the protest, Greater Tauranga spokeswoman Heidi Hughes said the Otakiri plant would be capable of producing 2400 single-use plastic bottles every minute and was allowed to operate 24 hours a day, six days a week.

"Times that by at least two more mega plants who are also sizing up the area and you have a tsunami of plastic."

In a widely-shared Facebook post earlier this month Greater Tauranga claimed the Otakiri and Murupara plants would together be capable of producing 15 billion plastic bottles a year.

Hughes acknowledged to the Bay of Plenty Times that number had been miscalculated but stood by the 2400-a-minute figure for Otakiri.

She said the point was the potential for growth in the bottling industry locally and the masses of plastic it would create at a time when many countries - including New Zealand - were cracking down on plastic waste.

Cresswell NZ managing director Michael Gleissner. Photo / Supplied
Cresswell NZ managing director Michael Gleissner. Photo / Supplied

Cresswell NZ managing director Michael Gleissner said in a written response the earlier claims were "grossly exaggerated".

He disputed the 2400 estimate, saying Cresswell expected the maximum the plant could produce was 1800 bottles a minute.

At no stage would the plant "run continuously 24/7" as the production cycle would have interruptions such as shift changeovers and cleaning.

He could not say how much plastic the plant would produce as the amount depended on national and overseas market demand that could not be reliably estimated yet.

The plant would use bottles made from glass, recycled plastic (rPET, restricted in some countries) and PET plastic bottles, which were recyclable in New Zealand.

He said the company was using its research and development resources to improve plastic technology including making bottles lighter, and was pushing for better recycling infrastructure in New Zealand.

A Whakatāne District Council spokesman said plastic water bottles were recyclable unless consumers chose to bin them. The council expected any plastic waste from the plant would be recycled locally.

Protesters also objected to extra traffic in Tauranga as bottles and materials were transported to and from the Port of Tauranga.

Local Tauranga officials have referred to the potential for 500 trucks a day in public meetings.

Hughes said even if bottles were transported via rail that would still impact road traffic at crossings.

Gleissner said Cresswell's proposal anticipated an average of 140 to 160 truck movements a day but the company were in talks about using the proposed rail side container terminal in Kawerau as a more efficient option.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council regional development manager, David Phizacklea said the Urban Form and Transport Initiative would look at the impact of future freight flows on Tauranga's transport network.

Protesters plan to make a mound of 2400 used plastic bottles on the beach at Omanu Surf Club at midday on Sunday.

Organisers said most bottles would come from a local refuse centre.

According to the Facebook event - which has about 280 people attending and 670 interested as of Thursday - the bottles would then be delivered to the Environment Court hearing during the appeal.