Millions of litres of crystal clear spring water could be bottled and shipped overseas in a proposal backed by the local council.
NZ Pure Blue Springs Limited wants to take from Putaruru's Blue Spring in the Waihou River more than the amount of water currently being pulled from the Waikato for bottling.
In its resource consent application to Waikato Regional Council, it has asked to extract 6.9 million litres a day.
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The company first attempted to purchase the right to extract and export 1.4 billion litres of pure, artesian water a year in Ashburton but the deal was cancelled in July last year following public backlash.
It has now turned its sights to the South Waikato.
The combined daily limit of water extraction allocated by the Regional Council to all bottling operations in the region is 5.3million litres. Coca-Cola Amatil is the largest consent holder of water from the Waihou River taking up to a maximum of 200,000 litres a day.
NZ Pure Blue plans to set-up a bottling plant at an existing industrial site in Putaruru and create the "largest production bottling plant in the southern hemisphere, exporting 100% of its products".
The application said one of its objectives would be to revitalise Putaruru by increasing overall social and economic benefits to the community through employing 200 staff. As part of its application the company included an economic and social impact report by Business and Economic Research Limited.
If the 15-year consent is granted, the plant would open in 2019.
NZ Pure Blue said it had consulted with the Raukawa Iwi and discussed potential mitigation measures, as well as gained support of the South Waikato District Council.
A council spokesperson confirmed it would be getting some form of payment from the company for its support, saying it had indicated it would provide an amount of funding in trust to benefit the Putaruru community.
The district council was first approached in early to mid-2016 and supported the benefits the bottling plant would bring especially around job creation, economic growth and community and social development.
SWDC would not give further details about why it was supporting the plant - including details of any funding - saying withholding it was necessary to enable a local authority to have negotiation without prejudice or disadvantage.
Waikato Regional Council spokesman Stephen Ward said the council would assess the application based on the water allocation available. It was unknown when a decision would be made.
Under New Zealand legislation and rules there was no bar on water takes being used for bottling. The regional council said its job was to address whether the water was available to be allocated under the limits set in the regional plan and that it was constrained by the Resource Management Act which did not allow regional plans to be explicit about what activities are the best use of water.
NZ Pure Blue, owned by business advisory Walker Davey Trustee Services, was incorporated in 2015 and its directors are Christchurch developer John Paynter and Auckland businessman Roydon Hartnett.
Hartnett declined to comment until the application process was completed, but pointed the Herald to the hydrology memo and economic and social impact report included in the consent application.
Environment minister Dr Nick Smith said the WRC needed to consider the sustainability of the resource not what it was being used for.
Smith said the government was looking at the issue including charging for water takes for bottled water, but not in isolation from other uses.
"The other policy question the government is working on is whether it should provide greater direction on allocation. The current law give greatest priority to domestic then stock drinking water, but gives no guidance beyond that."
A technical advisory group is due to report back to the government on reform options in December.
Labour water spokesman David Parker said even if the amount being extracted was found to be environmentally sustainable, there needed to be a fair return paid back to the public.
"Where a pristine water like that is being paid for bottled water there should be a royalty paid back to the New Zealand public. Where these sorts of precious public resources are being used for private profit there should be a royalty just like there is on oil and gas and even gravel."
Green Party water spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said it was just another example of how out of control the water bottling industry was.
"It's a big project wanting to take it long term and again no price on the water. I think New Zealanders have had a gutsful of this. They are really sick of it and really want people to look at it."
Delahunty said the bottlers were not just taking water for free, but they were taking the best and cleanest water, which would be needed in the future.