Applications have been lodged to draw huge amounts of water from the lakes and rivers of the McKenzie Basin in the South Island.
The Royal New Zealand Forest & Bird Society says 34 companies and individuals are applying to take more than 160 million cubic metres of water, to irrigate nearly 30,000 hectares of land.
The society says the water is wanted for intensive farming.
Forest & Bird claims the proposal will destroy the landscape there.
Federated Farmers says the applications are not excessive.
High Country group chair Donald Aubrey says the water will greatly lift the productivity of farms in the McKenzie country, without jeopardising the landscape.
He says farmers know how to look after the land.