Conservation advocates and brand specialists are flabbergasted one of the country's largest food processors is buying coal mines, saying it's a risk to New Zealand's brand.
Talley's, which owns dairy, meat and seafood companies, is purchasing three of Solid Energy's mines in a joint venture with the miner Bathurst Resources.
Just last week, the Ministry for the Environment released a report saying ocean acidification and warming due to greenhouse gas emissions was one of the biggest threats to marine ecosystems.
The report said human activities, such as burning coal, were changing the country's marine environment, and ocean acidification and warming had widespread implications for species and ecosystems.
Given this, several conservationists said they were surprised that Talley's, which has extensive fishing operations in New Zealand, was purchasing three coal mines.
Talley's boasts of its clean, pure, premium product, and its environmentally sustainable management.
But Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said the company did not have a good record in terms of corporate responsibility and environmental sensitivity.
"There's a real irony that a company that relies on a healthy ocean is in fact also mining the very coal that is going to actually threaten that marine environment and therefore the future of fishing."
Morgan Foundation general manager Geoff Simmons said it beggared belief that Talley's was getting into an industry which was exacerbating the problem with ocean degradation.
The issue of Talley's buying into coal was representative of a wider problem for New Zealand's clean green brand, he said.
"We're trying to get greater value out of our products, fisheries included, and that clean and green image is paramount to that. Talley's and indeed the entire country can't really risk that by getting into these sorts of dirty industries at the same time."
Talley's also owns the Open Country dairy brand and the meat processor AFFCO, both of which export.
Dairy and meat factories around the country also use coal for power generation.
University of Auckland business school senior lecturer Bodo Lang said New Zealand had been lasseiz-faire with a lot of environmental issues, and that was slowly catching up with it.
He said the move to buy into mines was odd for a food processor, and he believed it made the company vulnerable because of its claims of being sustainable and clean.
"There's certainly a risk in there, and I think it's probably also not the type of thing that really New Zealand wants to be associated with."
Talley's had not yet responded to RNZ's request for comment.
Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson said last week that businesses also needed to do their bit to tackle the problem of the country's degrading marine environment.