Chinese trade deal contradicts NZ govt recycling plans

By Taroi Black

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admits that her Government has a contradictory approach to reducing plastic waste. When asked if the Otakiri deal goes against the governments vision, the PM responded:

“Actually, I do.”

While her government successfully banned single-use plastic bags, the Environment Court approved the production of 3.7 million plastic bottles a day from the Otakiri Springs bottling plant.

The PM spoke of the complications that arise because of the many trade treaties that Aotearoa has. PM Arderns' predecessor, Helen Clark implemented the Free Trade Agreement with China, which opened up Aotearoa for more trade.

As part of the trade treaty, successive governments have vied for closer ties with China. This led to Nongfu Springs, and their NZ subsidiary Creswell NZ Ltd to invest here. Overseas Investment Office (OIO) documents show that Nongfu Springs reminded the courts that the reputation of Aotearoa could be affected internationally, if they were barred from expanding operations here. The PM explains that for “off-shore bottlers [this] does produce some complications.”

Business NZ convention in Auckland. Photo / File

The Otakiri issue is the tip of an enormous iceberg of issues. The Business NZ convention focused on wai Māori. As millions of litres of wai Māori are sold overseas councils struggle to provide clean drinking water to their own communities.

The Far North District Council has imposed emergency restrictions as water levels have reached dangerously low levels. In the Hutt Valley, it is estimated, that they will need $270 million bring the antiquated water systems up to date. Infrastructure New Zealand CEO Paul Blair, asked the PM, “Where is the funding to get those upgrades?”

However the PM is focusing on rail, hospitals, schools and roads.

CEO Paul Blair explains, “I think there will be a $4 billion capital allowance.” Blair hopes that this will be used to help with those much needed upgrades across the motu.

While the PM celebrates her investment into our country, Sustainable Otakiri/Save Our Wai and Te Runanga o Ngāti Awa are lodging an appeal the Environment Courts consent to flooding China with our wai, one bottle, at a time.