An application to give New Zealand's largest and clearest freshwater springs the equivalent of National Park status has gained the support of the Environment Minister.
Tasman District Council has been considering raising the water take in the area by 70 percent.
Local iwi, fearing that would affect the springs' water quality, have asked Environment Minister Nick Smith to enact a Conservation Order.
That would establish a protective covenant around the springs and limit the reach of resource plans or consents.
Dr Smith said the Waikoropupū Springs in Golden Bay were a natural treasure and must be preserved.
"I think New Zealanders are increasingly recognising that just in the same way as our predecessors set aside significant areas of land for national parks we need to identify those really special water bodies and ensure that they are protected in perpetuity for future generations."
Dr Smith said he had accepted the application and referred it to a special tribunal, which would make a recommendation on whether the Order should be applied.
He said the springs were widely treasured and must be protected for future generations.
The deputy mayor of the Tasman District Council, Tim King, said the council would accept any changes to water allocation resulting from the Order.
"So once the process has been worked through and they will come up with the issues around the water allocation part of it and any rules that may apply or thresholds that may need to be met.
"Clearly any decisions made around allocation in the water conservation order become the rules that the council has to work with."