Consent has been granted for a proposed water bottling plant to extract water near the Whanganui River.
The application was first lodged in 2018 by Aquifer 182 Holding Company Limited, which wants to take and use up to 750,000 litres of groundwater per week (37 million litres per annum) from a bore on Anzac Parade for water bottling and ice manufacturing.
A written decision by independent commissioners Christine Foster (chairwoman) and Vicki Morrison-Shaw said the proposal would result in economic and social benefits, including employment, demand for delivery services and the reuse of an existing facility.
"The Applicant's engagement with tangata whenua has been genuine, respectful, and has occurred over several years resulting in a number of fundamental changes
(improvements) to the proposal and to the mitigation proposed," it said.
The Hearing Panel granted consent through to 2035.
"The Applicant has demonstrated over a four-year period a genuine desire to work
collaboratively with iwi and hapū for the benefit of all."
A hearing on August 4 discussed the concerns from public submissions and the Hearing Panel, and was adjourned due to the panel needing more information from the company in response to the concerns raised.
The application received 37 submissions from the public - four in support of the application and 33 against it.
The concerns raised included the mauri of the water being affected by the extraction and the end use and packaging of the water.
The decision document stated the proposed groundwater abstraction would not directly physically affect Te Awa Tupua.
"The evidence confirms there is a low likelihood of a direct connection between the deep aquifer bore and the river flow of Te Awa Tupua," the document said.
"The sale of bottled water and ice resulting from the processing of the abstracted groundwater and the ownership of the company are not matters that are determinative in our decision.
"The groundwater quality monitoring and cultural monitoring proposed by the Applicant will ensure any adverse effects arising during the term of consent are identified and can be addressed."
The company's owner Geoff Murdoch stopped short of committing to employing only local people or only hapū members, the decision document stated.
"That is reasonable in our view. The evidence did not identify any resource management reason why such a limitation should be imposed.
"However, the Applicant has proposed a consent condition that requires it to regularly report on the company's commitment to providing equal access to employment opportunities for members of Te Rūnanga in any recruitment process.
"The agreed evidence is that, if the proposed abstraction proceeds, there will remain sufficient groundwater in this deep aquifer to fulfil reasonably foreseeable needs."
According to the application, the site would operate six days a week, 12 hours a day.