The New Zealand Whisky Company's plans to develop a $3 million distillery in Oamaru could be jeopardised after plans to develop a tourism attraction and distillery in Waterfront Rd at Oamaru Harbour fell through last week.

New Zealand Whisky Company general manager Grant Finn, of Oamaru, in February confirmed the company had chosen Oamaru over Dunedin as its preferred site for a new distillery after several years of discussions about where to establish its production base.

Yesterday, Mr Finn said a recent decision by the owners of the proposed site in Waterfront Rd to end the deal had created uncertainty for the company.

''It does, and failure to secure something will present Dunedin as an option for our business owner, and also for our director investor who is also based in Dunedin,'' Mr Finn said.

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''We're very mindful of the need to secure something quickly, even short term, for production only.''

He declined to comment in detail about why the preferred site was no longer an option.

''It's beyond our control. Unfortunately decisions are made beyond our control and we just have to deal with it.''

He said with proposed visitor accommodation for the area, plans to create a viewing platform at Sumpter Wharf for Oamaru's abundant rare Otago shags, and the nearby Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony would have made the Waterfront Rd site ''transformative'' for the business.

''You have that visitation to the area already and when you bring in a new building and distillery ... the intention was for us to have distillery tours ... the site had a lot of attractive aspects to it, no question.''

With stills arriving in Oamaru at the end of July, the company's focus was on a short-term solution.

Nevertheless, property owners in town had been ''very responsive''.

''We are time-poor,'' Mr Finn said. ''We are in discussions regarding a long-term option, which is fantastic, but it's some time away, hence the need for a short-term 'Band-Aid solution'.''

The whisky company initially bought 450 barrels of whisky in October 2010, which originated from the former Wilsons distillery in Willowbank, Dunedin.

After a board restructuring in August 2016, the company had committed to production.

Since December 2016, through a third-party contractor in Christchurch, the company has put into cask thousands of litres of whisky, now stored in Oamaru.

The company had previously targeted production to begin in Oamaru as soon as September this year.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz