Strict rules on water bottling in Hawke's Bay have been watered down by the regional council for a local company's benefit.
Water bottling has been a contentious issue in the region and the council put heavy restrictions on it in 2016.
Apollo Foods, which has an existing consent to take water for bottling, had asked the council for permission to use some of its water take to make soft drinks without public notification.
Council chairman Rex Graham said it would help the company grow its market.
A full meeting of the regional council yesterday agreed to amend the policy so that staff could consider changes to conditions of existing consents on a case-by-case basis.
There was disagreement around the council table but Graham said that was "all part of democracy".
Any new water bottling facility would still have to be publicly notified, he said.
"What we have agreed to is a change that allows staff to use their discretion in dealing with businesses who have an existing consent to take water and want to develop a new product or one that uses more than 90 percent water and may be caught in the current rules."
The council's head of regulation, Liz Lambert, said the council asked to reconsider its position earlier this year by Apollo Foods, which wants to make a new sports drink that is more than 90 percent water.
Water bottling remained a contentious issue, but many of the concerns people had - such as foreign ownership and the use of plastic bottles - did not relate to the taking of water at this particular site, she said.
"It's important to point out that in the Heretaunga Plains there is no more water being allocated for any use so we are extremely unlikely to have any more applications for water bottling," she said.
There are currently 11 consents for water bottling in Hawke's Bay, of which five are active.