A Golden Bay farmer says there's been a serious lack of consultation with primary industries over the Te Waikoropupu Springs.
A special tribunal is being held for a protection order on the springs, which have some of the clearest water in the world.
Wayne Langford says the hearing time could've been halved if farmers were properly consulted.
"A number of farmers are submitting in favour of the conservation order, but if we had been able to consult and make a few of the changes earlier, a lot of the tensions and struggles would have been avoided."
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Mr Langford says Golden Bay has 100 percent swimmable waterways, but conservation groups are lumping them in with intensive dairying.
"We're very proud of the fact we've got 100 percent swimmable rivers in Golden Bay. I think the rest of the country would dream to have that. I think that needs to be acknowledged."
The springs are at the heart of every local farmer's decision, he says.
"In a number of the applications they spoke of how often they visited the springs, how often they took friends and family and their children there. They're just as important to us as anyone else - we think about them constantly when we make on-farm decisions."
Mr Langford says he supports the order, but wants it to protect only the springs - not an aquifer and nearby rivers.
There has been close to 2000 submissions made over the springs.
"These iconic waters are well deserving of consideration for a water conservation order - the highest protection possible for a water body," then-Conservation Minister Nick Smith said in June last year, when the order was proposed.
Water conservation orders are the equivalent of national park status. There are 15 nationwide presently, covering 13 rivers and two lakes.