Ngāti Awa applauds court decision over Ōtākiri Spring

By Tumamao Harawira

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa manautū Leonie Simpson

Te Runanga o Ngāti Awa (Ngāti Awa) has won the right to appeal a High Court judgment dismissing its appeal from the Environment Court. Ngāti Awa had gone to the Court of Appeal to seek the right to challenge that ruling.

The Environment Court's majority decision was to grant Creswell NZ the right to extract 1.1 billion cubic metres of water annually from the Otākiri aquifer for water bottling.

Creswell is a subsidiary of Chinese soft drinks giant Ngonfu Spring, headquartered in Hangzhou, China. Otakiri is a small rural settlement a short distance from Whakatāne and within the Ngāti Awa rohe.

 "Water is a treasure, and we should be providing it to people to ensure their survival," Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa manautū (chief executive) Leonie Simpson says.

Instead, "we are giving away this treasure to everyone around the world in a plastic bottle."

Ngāti Awa first opposed the Creswell proposal in 2018, concerned the proposal would have irrevocable and negative effects on te mauri o te wai, that Ngāti Awa would not be able to carry out its role as kaitiaki, and that the proposal was inconsistent with the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“This is an encouraging decision because we’ve won the right to be heard," Simpson says. "He taonga te wai – water is an inherited treasure. Once it has been removed from our rohe our wai will never return. As kaitiaki and mana whenua we have a responsibility to act when decisions impact the natural resources within our rohe."