118 million litres of wai Māori exported for 52c per litre

By Taroi Black
A display of water bottles produced by Nongfu Springs, China. / Source - Flickr

The government and local councils gave the green light to suck up 118 million litres of wai Māori, at a mere 52 cents a litre last year. A Chinese water bottling giant in Otakiri wants to increase that amount by 154,000 bottles an hour.

In defending their application to bottle the wai, Creswell NZ LTD said that New Zealand’s reputation could be tarnished because the government actively encouraged the company owners to invest here.

Documents from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), the government agency that decides if foreigners can invest, show that they did not believe that to be the case. They work with NZTE that helps create jobs and find potential investment partners.

Tina Wilson, NZTE director says, “ We help companies to grow internationally

However Wilson advised Te Ao that they had stopped promoting water-bottling investments at the end of 2016.

Te Runanga o Ngāti Awa (TRONA) are still considering the decision. However their main focus is dealing with the aftermath of the Whakaari eruption, which took the lives of 17 people.

Tu O’Brien represented Ngāi Tamawera hapū at the Environmental Court and voiced his peoples’ strong opposition to the Otakiri deal.

“This deal will impact on the mauri of our wai, it holds cultural significance to our hapū and iwi of Ngāti Awa."

“I fear for my children.”

The PledgeMe link for Save Our Wai. / Source - Save Our Wai Facebook

The chair of the Save Our Wai campaign explained how the wider community had come together with Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa to preserve their puna wai (water source).

Save Our Wai, founded by Sustainable Otakiri are rushing to raise $32,000 through Pledge Me in order push their case forward to the High Court Appeal. They only have two weeks left to lodge their appeal.

Creswell NZ LTD stated to the Environmental Court that if they were to take water from the Otakiri aquifer at the proposed rate of 154,000 bottles an hour that the negative effects on the puna would be little if any.

They further stated that should the mauri of the wai be negatively affected, then that can be managed by local hapū and the iwi Rūnanga.

Nongfu Springs and its NZ based branch Creswell NZ LTD have promised that 52 full-time jobs and a possible total of 237 full-time positions could from this expansion. No comment was given on how long these jobs would last as automation increases in the bottling industry.

Environmental Court Commissioner David Kenohan disregarded the assurances that the puna would be preserved. His focus, was elsewhere.

“My concerns are not about the water take per se, but about the adverse effects on the environment of the end use of plastic bottles manufactured on site.”