3.7 million plastic Chinese bottles infuriate Otakiri locals

By Taroi Black

A Chinese bottling giant is seeking Māori approval to suck more water from Otakiri Springs, near Whakatane. The Environmental Court granted consent for their expansion, but locals are not happy.

Registered as Creswell NZ LTD, evidence suggests that the Chinese company would have the capacity to produce 3.7 million plastic water bottles a day. 

This has triggered the Save Our Wai campaign, run by Sustainable Otakiri. They are raising funds to lodge an appeal of the Environmental Courts' ruling in the High Court.

“In terms of what it means for everyday New Zealanders, we’re not getting a fair say,” Campaign chair Maureen O’Kane says.

Save Our Wai want to change the kaupapa of extraction, and replace it with protecting the puna and bringing Māori, and the wider community to the table.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa appealed the consent at the Environmental Court May last year. Their view was that they could not allow this extraction take place as it would threaten the mauri of the wai, and have a negative impact on the taiao.

Creswel representatives informed the Environmental Court that their plans would create 52 new full-time jobs, They estimated the potential for a total of 237 full-time positions to come from this expansion. Company owner Shanshan Zhong informed Ngāti Awa that those jobs would be offered to them first.

“We support job employment but we want it to go hand in hand with ensuring that our environment doesn’t pay the cost,” Campaign chair Maureen O’Kane says.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) are the government agency responsible for economic development. NZTE director Tina Wilson explains that due to the Otakiri deal being a private sale, that they have not been involved.

However they stand to help facilitate any future conversations with potential investors, “Our ultimate aim is for the good of Aotearoa.”

Sustainable Otakiri acknowledged the nationwide concern with single use plastic bottles and water quality. Nearby Kawerau residents have been advised to boil their water after traces of E.Coli were found in recent tests.

Save Our Wai are seeking 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.