Bay of Plenty locals are gathering to show their opposition to a Chinese water bottling company's proposed expansion of Otakiri Springs.
The expansion, which has attracted national and political interest around the issue of water bottling, will see the company Nongfu implementing a bottling facility at Otakiri Springs to sell overseas.
Nongfu's New Zealand subsidiary, Creswell Enterprises, has lodged an application to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to take 580 million litres of groundwater per year from a Johnson Road site.
Otakiri Save our Water and Environment spokesperson, Maureen Fraser, says that their community group seeks to stand up against the proposal to help protect and preserve New Zealand's water and environment for future generations.
“As New Zealanders and locals, we need to act fast and make our protest heard about this latest threat to our water.”
“National and local government should not allow foreign-owned water-bottling companies to take water from New Zealand's pristine aquifers.”
A report to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council noted the Otakiri aquifer is some 200 metres or more below the surface.
“It is regarded as a ‘leaky confined aquifer', sandwiched between a greywacke basement below and a leaky ‘aquitard' above,” says Maureen.
“Little is known about how fast the aquifer recharges or where the water comes from; it is thought to be from Lake Tarawera.”
She says that data surrounding the aquifer, is not reliable enough to determine whether it is safe to collect water from the site.
“The science behind allocation of these aquifers is unreliable; data from current users and computer-based modelling is used to indicate how much water can or cannot be taken.
“We have current examples in New Zealand where the science was flawed and the aquifers have been depleted. We need only look at Gisborne, where their aquifer is now being recharged with dirty river water and Canterbury, where the Rakaia River runs dry every summer.”
Maureen says the action by their group is focused on stopping allocation of water for foreign-owned water-bottling and not about stopping farmers and horticulturalists from making their living.
“We want the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to publicly notify the Nongfu consent application, so the community has the chance to say what it thinks. We also want a national moratorium on allocations for water bottling, especially to foreign-owned companies.
“We have a real issue in the Whakatane District where there is a very strong political will for water bottling, because of the few dozen low-paid jobs it may bring.
“We are very concerned that this issue will not get a fair hearing and will be swayed by political forces. Politicians need to listen up to the people of New Zealand who are saying, giving away our water is not OK.”
The group invites anyone interested in the issue to attend a community meeting to discuss the Nongfu proposal and make a submission to the Regional Council about publicly notifying the proposed water allocation.
The community hui will be held on Thursday September 14 at 7pm at the Edgecumbe Cosmopolitan Club.