Dunedin locals have expressed surprise and anger that a lignite processing plant in Southland could go ahead without public input.
State-owned mining company Solid Energy announced earlier this year it plans to turn 150,000 tonnes of low grade coal per year into briquettes for heavy industry at the trial plant.
About 120 people attended a meeting in Dunedin on Wednesday held by climate change campaign group, Coal Action Network Aotearoa.
Former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons told the meeting that Gore District Council and Southland Regional Council are still deciding whether the trial application needs public input to go ahead.
Some at the meeting expressed surprise or anger that there was no requirement to seek public comment about the trial.
Jeanette Fitzsimmons is worried council approval would mark the start of a whole new industrial expansion.