The Environment Court has dismissed an application by Cresswell NZ Ltd to strike out a community group's appeal.
The appeal challenges the industrial-scale expansion of Otakiri Springs and the
company's plans to bottle up to 4.5 million litres of water per day.
Maureen Fraser of Sustainable Otakiri said the group was grateful for Judge Kirkpatrick's decision.
"This decision gives us a chance to protect our environment. One consent allows 450m3 of phosphorus-rich wastewater to be dumped into our local stream every day. It also allows the discharge of large loads of stormwater and sediment. We're supposed to be improving the health of our water, not trading it off for a few jobs."
The group said its greatest concern was for the aquifer, with a cluster of bottling plants now in the area. These included Otakiri Springs, Antipodes and Oravida.
They now understood that water bottling had been a significant part of the Bay of Plenty's Regional Growth Strategy and that the local council, MBIE and NZTE have been involved in encouraging the industry for years.
"It's mindblowing really, because this is absolutely not what the community wants. Our understanding of existing water 'takes', aquifer recharge and climate change are so limited. This was reckless policy," Fraser said.
Sustainable Otakiri group member Niki Gladding had questioned whether Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage's hands were "tied" by overseas investment laws when she granted Cresswell consent to purchase the land.
Gladding has asked the Prime Minister to release the advice Sage received, after revelations about the previous government's involvement and Simon Bridges' comments that the minister had the "absolute discretion" to decline the consent.
"Minister Sage has relied heavily on that advice to excuse her decision, so it should be released. Frankly, we need to know if our free trade agreement or our relationship with China impacted her decision to grant consent," Gladding said.
"There is growing global demand for our cleanest water, but protections are incredibly limited and our ability to increase those protections are being removed by 'free' trade agreements. At the same time, water permits are increasingly being 'sold' via inflated land prices that effectively shut Kiwis out.
"The fact is if we don't have some big changes to the RMA and the Overseas Investment Act (quickly) the government will lose the ability to protect and control the allocation of our water. Leaving it to iwi and community groups to battle well-resourced corporations under the RMA is unacceptable."