"I have called in these discharge consents as they are nationally significant due to their scale, the fragile and iconic nature of the Mackenzie Basin environment, the importance of freshwater quality to the Government and the high level of public interest," Dr Smith said.
"The effluent from these intensive farms is equivalent to a city of 250,000 people and raises quite legitimate questions over the long-term impacts on the water quality in the Mackenzie Basin."
Environment Canterbury has received more than 4000 submissions against the proposals, while both the parliamentary commissioner for the environment and the Green Party have urged the Government to "call in" the proposal as a project of national significance.
Calling in the application means it by-passes local authorities and the normal Environment Court process and instead goes to a special board of inquiry, set up by the Environment Minister, and chaired by an Environment Court judge.
The board will comprise Environment Court Judge Jane Borthwick, water engineer Michael Bowden, scientist Dr Jim Cooke, Ngai Tahu representative Edward Ellison, and Waikato University lake ecologist Professor David Hamilton.
"I have deliberately chosen board members with first-class expertise on water quality issues and three who are also serving as commissioners on related water take consents to ensure appropriate continuity of the decision making process," Smith said.
This is almost a dead duck, but the pressure must be kept on and we need to keep our eyes open to their other plans. They will be equally witless.