A new plan has been put forward to safeguard the future of South Canterbury's Mackenzie Basin, but it is dependent on Government funding and new legislation.
The Mackenzie agreement has been produced by a wide range of organisations connected to the area, including community groups, farmers, environment experts, and irrigation groups.
The basis of the agreement is to form a Mackenzie Country Trust that would aim to help landowners and organisations work together to boost the region's agriculture, tourism and biodiversity.
The agreement was launched on Sunday afternoon in Twizel by Conservation Minister Nick Smith who said the region has a unique biodiversity.
He said there's now room for both dairying and conservation.
"No one could pretend the status quo is going to serve us well into the future, this proposal says yes, we think there is a role for irrigating and for dairying in the Mackenzie, but it has to be in areas that is not going to compromise those landscape, those biodiversity and those recreational values."
Legislation would have to be changed to create the special trust and the agreement says it would also need an unspecified amount of Government funding to go towards the estimated annual trust costs of $3.7 million.
Emeritus Professor in botany at Otago University, Sir Alan Mark, was part of the discussions about the agreement and said the conservation values will be respected.
He said it's very pleasing to see given the other competing uses of the Mackenzie Basin.
Sir Mark said the launch of the agreement is a major step forward in a maturing of New Zealand's appreciation of its natural values.
The agreement has taken three years to produce and stemmed from disagreements over potential intensive dairy farming in the area.