Māori prominent at Whangarei water protection rally

By Dean Nathan

Māori were prominent at a rally in Whangarei today, held simultaneously with rallies nationwide to protect New Zealand's water. Today's rally was one of 15 held across the country to coincide with the delivery of a New Zealand Water Forum petition to Parliament.

Hona Edwards of Poroti says, “The state of our rivers has become a big issue and the fact that our water is being sold.  We need to stand in the knowledge that clean water is an important issue.  Without it, nothing can exist.”

New Whangarei District councillor Anna Murphy, who campaigned on environmental issues says, the management of water needs to be addressed, “It's not just about water but about looking after our environment as a whole. It's precious we're just kaitiaki and we all need to take responsibility and do what we can to keep it clean for future.”

Jen Branje of the New Zealand Water Forum addressed a crowd at the stairs of parliament, before presenting a petition signed by over 16,000 people calling for a moratorium on all water exports, and rejecting recent changes to freshwater standards.

Branje said, “Throughout New Zealand, some communities are struggling to have access to clean safe water, yet bottling plants come here and take our pure deep ground water for free.  And while they're taking it we get nothing.”

A sizeable crowd marched from the Whangarei city centre to the office of the regional council to let their concerns be known.  Māori researcher Tui Shortland says, “These days water is being taken from Pakeha and Maori communities right across the country so this is an issue for everyone in New Zealand."