Dairy giant Fonterra has won resource consent to expand milk processing at Studholme in South Canterbury.
The consent for the site 6km east of Waimate was approved today by commissioners appointed by Environment Canterbury and Waimate District Council.
The plant would be designed to burn biomass and coal, but was expected to be burning mainly coal, and so was strongly opposed by environmentalists such as Coal Action Network Aotearoa.
In making their judgement, the commissioners noted they were not allowed by law to consider the impact of local projects on climate change.
The expansion would be a scaled back version of earlier plans but would still be large, with an extra milk dryer up to 56m high and an extra boiler up to 45m high.
It would also process so much more milk that the number of vehicles, mainly trucks, serving the site would rise from 162 per day to 529 per day.
There has been agricultural processing there since 1993 and milk production since 2006.
It already processed 900,000 litres of milk a day but Fonterra wanted to be able to process much more should the need arise.
Though Fonterra would not be extending the plant immediately, it said it needed approval now to respond quickly to any future increased demand for milk processing.
However, the consent was set to lapse if not made use of within 10 years and otherwise was set to expire in 35 years.
They were also obligated to consider the fact that Fonterra is legally required to take farmer shareholders' milk for processing.
The decision is able to be appealed.