Environmentalists are unhappy dairy giant Fonterra has secured resource consent for a milk plant expansion.
After a lengthy hearing, the company received resource consent to expand milk processing at Studholme in South Canterbury.
Under the expansion plan there would be another milk dryer and an extra boiler at the plant, which already processes 900,000 litres of milk a day.
The number of vehicles visiting the plant daily would more than triple.
Although it would be designed to burn biomass and coal, it was expected to burn mainly coal, and was strongly opposed by Coal Action Network Aotearoa.
Besides polluting the atmosphere with coal emissions, Coal Action Network Aotearoa said the plant as proposed would need a herd of 270,000 cows to support it, and that would put a huge burden on the land.
Spokeswoman Rosemary Penwarden said commissioners considering the proposal had missed a great opportunity to turn it down.
"We can't keep expanding, we cannot keep polluting our rivers and taking the water out of the rivers," she said.
"We have got to stop dumping coal into the atmosphere and this decision flies in the face of sustainability and caring for the future."
Fonterra responded, saying it was pleased with the decision, but suggested it would not actually build the expanded factory yet.
A spokesperson said the verdict would enable the company to move quickly if South Canterbury milk production grew in years to come.
The decision to approve the consents was made by commissioners appointed by Environment Canterbury and Waimate District Council.
They said the approval would lapse if not acted on within ten years, and even then would last only for another 35 years.
In their judgement they noted they were not allowed by law to consider the impact of local projects on climate change.
They were also obligated to consider the fact that Fonterra is legally required to take farmer shareholders' milk for processing under so-called Dira legislation that set Fonterra up.
The decision is able to be appealed but no move to do so has been announced.