Government officials initiated and successfully brokered a deal with an overseas water bottling company to purchase a Bay of Plenty operation, documents show.
The documents, obtained under the Official Information Act, reveal New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) helped Chinese company Nongfu Spring set up in New Zealand.
In an application to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), China's largest water bottler Nongfu Springs said it was "actively encouraged to invest in New Zealand".
"Nongfu Spring's initial interest in acquiring a water bottling facility in New Zealand was actively encouraged by NZTE," the OIO application reads.
"NZTE's director, commercial and investment relations manager for greater China, together with NZTE's investment manager ... approached Nongfu Spring and assisted with familiarisation of the water bottling industry in New Zealand."
Nongfu Spring said if the Government was to refuse consent, New Zealand's overseas image would be "adversely" affected.
The previous government, under National's control, got the ball rolling on Nongfu Springs' potential investment but it was signed off in June by Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage.
The application has prompted community groups to come together and appeal the consent application.
Whakatane resident Mawera Karetai, who has a masters in environmental studies, told Newstalk ZB not enough was known about the aquifer to be taking water out of it.
"I have a particular interest in water and I have quite serious concerns that we don't know enough about the aquifer," she said.
"We don't know how long it takes for the aquifer to recharge, all of the reports that were generated are full of 'ifs' and 'maybes'.
"There's a lot of information missing and a decision has still been made. I think that's wrong."
Located near Whakatane, Otakiri Springs' new owner hoped the aquifer would bottle more than one billion litres of water each year by 2021.
Nongfu Springs intended to "update and improve the efficiency of the existing low-speed bottling line" currently in use at Otakiri Springs.
"This will allow Nongfu Springs to utilise the existing line for production of new 750ml glass bottles (still and sparkling) and 500ml in new PET bottles," the OIO application read.
In an invitations and meeting advice document obtained from the office of David Parker, Nongfu said it was aware of the public sensitivity to the water issue.
"They are prepared for a resource tax on the water used for export of bottled water and are not opposed to this," it read.