The Government looks unlikely to relieve the Canterbury Regional Council of its duty to hear resource consent applications for large-scale intensive dairy farms in the Upper Waitaki Valley.
Instead, Environment Minister Nick Smith says he is considering appointing a project co-ordinator from the Environmental Protection Authority to help the council manage the complex hearings process.
Tourism, farming and environmental groups are concerned about the planned farms, where 18,000 cattle would be kept inside for much of the year.
The regional council's chief executive, Bryan Jenkins, wrote to Dr Smith asking for clarification over the Government's ability to take over the hearings. Labour MP Brendan Burns and the Mackenzie Guardians group also want the minister to step in.
On Friday, however, Dr Smith said that that was not legally possible; but a decision on what would be done, given the wide public interest, would be made after the first Cabinet meeting of the year, on 19 January.