Who has rights to freshwater?

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust is objecting to resource consents applied for the by Gisborne District Council (GDC) regarding the use of water in the region. 

The debate follows the announcement by central government on Friday that they have set up their own water rights working group, to progress the conversation around freshwater rights and allocation. 

A spokesperson for Rongowhakaata, Jody Wyllie says, "The crux of the matter issue for all Māori right around NZ is the ownership of water and it's coming. The fact that we're starting this conversation around allocation, and we're yet to have the conversation with the council and with the Crown about who owns water in this country."

Nearly a third of all irrigation water on the Tūranga Nui a Kiwa Flats is sourced from the Makauri aquifer.

"We're not into halting progress, we're just a bit concerned about what they were doing in terms of injecting water from the Waiapaoa river into the aquifer and the fact that the area where it's being done is just downstream from a sewerage plant," says Wyllie.

The GDC is in now in the second phase of the trial, which re-injects water from the Waipaoa river into the Makauri Aquifer in order to maintain aquifer water levels and allow allocated water takes.

Environmental consultant for Rongowhakaata, Murray Palmer says, "The Waipaoa river is already under stress, from water allocation, the river and the Makauri are over-allocated, so we feel that extra water takes can damage the river significantly."

Jody Wyllie says, "GDC is a subsidiary of the Crown and people need to understand that relationship, that relationship is not right at the moment."

Te Kāea approached the Gisborne District Council for comment.  They say the hearing between the GDC and Rongowhakaata has been adjourned and that they the GDC will wait until a final decision has been made by the independent commissioner in September before commenting further.