Two of Nelson's leading winemakers are challenging the proposed funding of a planned $42 million water storage scheme for the Waimea Plains.
The Waimea Water Augmentation Committee and the Tasman District Council are proposing a compulsory rate to pay for the scheme that backers say will drought-proof the plains outside Richmond.
The project has been eight years in the planning, but revelations of the compulsory and standard rate of about $600 a hectare has some opponents fuming.
Trevor Bolitho from Waimea Estates and Herman Seifried, the founder of Seifried Estate, say the scheme should be user-pays - and if it isn't some grape growers will not survive.
The chair of the project, Murray King, says the scheme will guarantee the future of farming on the Waimea Plains by replenishing river levels during the region's frequent dry summers.
Mr King says rating all landowners per hectare is the fairest method.
Submissions on the scheme are expected to open in February.