Native Affairs – Alpine water for sale

By Peata Melbourne

Haast locals on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island are divided over plans to build a fresh water pipeline in the district.

"There was no notification to anybody this has essentially been handled as an in-house consent by the Regional Council with only three notified parties and it's now been granted," says Neil's Beach homeowner, Dr Nick Terpstra.

The West Coast Regional Council and Westland District Councils’ have renewed consents sought over 25 years ago, granting six large water reservoirs to pump water via a five-kilometre pipeline out to tanker ships for export. 35 acres of industrial construction is consented to be built at Neils Beach, just south of Haast.

“My concern has been all along, the lack of public consultation especially the people at Neil's Beach who have got houses there, they work there. There's going to be a noise from the diesel pumps which are going to pump the water offshore,” says Dr Terpstra. “There is a very significant visual impact when you put 35 acres of industrial impact right on the corner opposite the Neil's Beach entrance. I think at least it would've been fair to involve the local people rather than just the land owners who had landed right next door or opposite to this development.”

The water originates from inside Mt Aspiring National Park and will be collected from a dam to be built at Tuning Forks Creek. A 12-kilometre pipeline will run from there into Neil's beach where it will be held in six large reservoirs. The pipeline cannot be built without disturbing the Haast Tokoeka Kiwi sanctuary. But there are other endangered species at potential risk.

"Out to sea, I think the Fiordland Crested Penguin does have a unique place because it's the biggest colony on the mainland of New Zealand and it's been studied quite intensively at the moment. It would be interesting to see if something like a ship being there regularly maybe as often as once a week, represents a significant disruption to normal proceedings at Jackson Head really," says Terpstera.

A local west coast company, Ōkuru Enterprises Ltd was granted the consents. Chairman Peter Roselli told Native Affairs "We are doing everything according to New Zealand law." 

Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio represent the mana whenua of the area and say, "Our only concerns would be that the extraction and transport of water does no harm to the whenua, awa and moana."

The activity will take place in and beside Te Wāhipounamu a UNESCO World Heritage Area. Ōkuru Enterprises has permission to take up to 800 litres per second from a creek feeding into the Arawhata River.