Tensions boil at Te Waikoropupu Springs meeting

The Golden Bay community is at loggerheads over potential plans to increase irrigation near one of the world's clearest fresh water springs.

The long-running saga involving Te Waikoropupu Springs came to a head on Friday night with the first public meeting.

The springs are renowned for its underwater visibility - up to 63 metres.

It's this clarity many Takaka locals are desperate to preserve under a new water allocation scheme being considered by Tasman District Council.

"I want to know that the significance of Waikoropupu as a sacred place is being honoured," one woman told Newshub.

The Takaka Fresh Water and Land Advisory Group - known as FLAG - is responsible for guiding the council water policy.

But some locals have accused it of acting only in the interests of the council and farmers.

"I think there are very significant conflicts of interests in FLAG members," one woman at the meeting said.

FLAG members were quick to defend themselves.

"We're copping a bit of criticism for it, which is a bit personal in some cases. But I'd just like to remind you that you all had the opportunity right at the start of this to be involved," member Hika Rowntree says.

Farmers also chipped in, defending their practices and saying critics are wrong to label them as greedy.  

"We are part of the community, and it has been really disappointing to see certain groups have a crack at us in the way that they have," Upper Takaka farmer Nigel Harwood says.

Environment Minister Nick Smith has to weigh up both sides of the debate.

He's deciding whether more water can be taken from the springs and whether that would change the quality of the world-class tourist destination