The Save Our Otakiri Water and Environment group says it will fight the expansion of Otakiri Springs, and is preparing to lodge an appeal through the Environment Court.
Group spokeswoman Maureen Fraser told the Rotorua Daily Post that while feeling defeated, the group would fight until the bitter end.
"We are well aware of how much political will is behind the expansion, but we have made a decision that we can't walk away from it now – we have to keep going," Fraser said.
Last week Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage and Associate Finance Minister David Clark announced the decision to allow Creswell NZ Limited, wholly owned by Chinese bottled water supplier Nongfu Spring Co, to purchase Otakiri Springs.
In the same week the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Whakatāne District Council approved resource consent sought by Creswell NZ, for expansion of the existing Otakiri Springs water bottling plant.
It is this resource consent the group plans to appeal, though Fraser has said, "If we are able to, we will be challenging the basis of decisions made by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO)".
"We aim to ask some hard-hitting questions we believe are valid and go to the heart of the applications Creswell NZ has made."
Many of the questions will centre on the 60 jobs Creswell NZ have said would be a result of the expansion within a four-year period.
"We have only been given 15 days to appeal ... We have also been advised by other groups fighting similar fights, costs will run into between $300 and $500 per appeal, so we are scrambling to get funding as well."
She said it would take the combined effort of the community to see the appeal through.
"We are asking anyone with a legal background in consents to volunteer their time to help out. We also need environmental scientists and expert witnesses to help.
"At the end of the day we're a community group with basically zero funds about to go head to head with a billion-dollar company – we need all the help we can get."
Fraser said a Givealittle page had been set up to raise funds. "We also have an online petition circulating. If we can prove public support for what we are doing, there is a chance costs will be reduced."
Whakatāne mayor Tony Bonne said Save Our Water and Environment's decision to appeal did not come as a surprise.
"I believe most people thought it would go to the appeal court," Bonne said. "It's part of the process and we [council] will keep going until the process reaches a conclusion."
He said one thing he had noticed on social media was the belief the decision to grant resource consent was made by politicians.
"We had independent commissioners appointed to hear the application and, as part of the hearings, there was also iwi representation. We have to follow the district plan in our decision making – it's not just politicians saying yes or no."
Bonne said he was "very confident" Creswell NZ would provide the 60 jobs it had promised.
"They [Creswell NZ] have a good relationship with the hapu they are dealing with and I understand the hapu have every confidence the jobs will come to fruition. Also, the Government has made it very clear it has to happen."
The Rotorua Daily Post was unable to contact Creswell NZ director Michael Gleissner.