Ngāti Awa's court appeal to stop bottling of billion litres of water dismissed

By Kelvin McDonald
Photo / File

Ngāti Awa's court case to stop a water bottling company from extracting a billion litres of water from an Otākiri aquifier near Whakatāne has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal, RNZ reports.

The iwi lost their previous appeal in the High Court in 2020 to stop Creswell New Zealand Limited - a subsidiary of Chinese soft drink giant Nongfu Spring - from expanding its Eastern Bay of Plenty plant. 

Ngāti Awa argued in that case that the bottling of water from Otākiri in the Awaiti Canal Aquifer groundwater catchment would have irrevocable and negative effects on te mauri o te wai – the life force of the water – and render Ngāti Awa unable to be kaitiaki. 

The High Court rejected the iwi's case and now the Court of Appeal has backed the lower court's decision, ruling that the adverse effect of the expanded export and use of bottles produced at the plant on the environment were beyond the scope of the consent process, RNZ says.

In December last year, following the High Court decision, Ngāti Awa chairperson, Joe Harawira, took issue with "successive governments" failing to address the "very real issue" of water rights in New Zealand.

"Why are we exporting our purest water when our own people living in Whakatāne, Murupara and Kawerau drink water of the lowest acceptable quality for human consumption?" said Harawira.

"Why are we giving our water away for free to overseas companies whose shareholders will be the main beneficiaries? And why are we supporting a proposal to build a manufacturing plant with the capacity to create 1,800 single-use plastic bottles per minute?”