The High Court has quashed the resource consents granted by Waitaki District Council for the intensive dairy farms proposed in the upper Waitaki.
The Environmental Defence Society challenged the consents and certificates of compliance issued by the council.
The society said it was concerned about the effect the earthworks and large buildings would have on what it describes as fragile and unique tussock grasslands.
Three companies - Killermont Run, Southdown Holdings and Five Rivers - planned to establish 16 dairy farms, with 18,000 cows housed in sheds for most of the year.
They put their plans on hold when the government decided it would consider their applications for effluent discharge, rather than Canterbury Regional Council.
The council is still considering their applications for water rights.