Golden Bay's Te Waikoropupu Springs to get highest possible protection for body of water

It's thought to be New Zealand's clearest and cleanest water.

Te Waikoropupu Springs in Golden Bay is a hot spot for tourists and now will have the highest possible protection for a water body.

A Water Conservation Order (WCOs) has been accepted for the springs and will now be referred to a special tribunal.

Environment Minister Nick Smith made the announcement at the Springs, near Takaka, today.

The Government says WCOs are the equivalent of National Park status for a water body.

There are currently 15 WCOs in New Zealand - 13 rivers and two lakes. This is the first application for a springs.

It's a long time coming for local iwi Ngati Tama, who have been fighting to get protection for the pristine water system, and consider the springs wahi tapu, a sacred place.

The iwi made the application for the order in February under the Resource Management Act. Ngati Tama said then if successful it would be a legal first and would be setting a precedent in water protection.

"I commend the applicants, Ngāti Tama Ki Te Waipounamu Trust on their application. The Waikoropupū Springs are a widely treasured and unique water body," Mr Smith said.

"These springs are part of what gives Golden Bay, Nelson and New Zealand a strong environmental reputation, and we must ensure they are protected for future generations."

Earlier this year the iwi sought a judicial review over the extension of a company's consent to bottle water. The iwi's court action was successful.

Locals have also been having meetings about the Tasman District Council's new committee to look at allocation of water for the springs.

Many in the area are concerned farmers would take more than their fair share from the Takaka catchment and are also concerned about potential nutrient run-off from dairy farms nearby.

"I am also having discussions with the Tasman District Council on how we can ensure the processes for the WCO can be aligned with their proposed changes to their water management plans in the catchment," Mr Smith said.

The Tasman District Council have admitted there have been few protections for the springs in the past.

Local iwi Ngati Tama have been fighting to ensure the integrity of the pristine Golden Bay water source. Source: 1 NEWS