Nongfu Spring has welcomed the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's decision to publicly notify its consent applications to expand the Otakiri Springs water bottling plant
The company says it looks forward to talking and listening to the community about the merits of its proposal.
The private, family-owned company also has consent applications lodged with the Whakatane District Council, but not publicly notified, and has now formally requested these matters be dealt with together in a combined hearing in order to reduce costs for participants and make the process more accessible and efficient.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council consents relate to the expansion and operation of the Otakiri Spring water bottling facility, while the Whakatane District Council consents concern land use activities related to developing the plant.
Nongfu Spring recognises the strong public interest in commercial water use and the sustainable management of the community resource, says Michael Gleissner, director of Nongfu Springs' subsidiary, Creswell New Zealand.
He says the consenting process will help people better understand the complexities of the water allocation system and the benefits and value water bottling brings to the wider community.
“As we've said before, we're prepared to pay a royalty on the commercial use of water, should the Government decide to impose one, provided it is fair and equitable,” he says.
“We also believe the proceeds from any royalty should be invested back into the Eastern Bay community.”
He says Nongfu Spring has invested considerable time and funds in supporting the local community, including providing water in the wake of the Edgecumbe floods.
“If consent is granted, we will create real local jobs for local people, particularly Maori,” he says.
“When completed, the plant will employ 60 staff (up from eight staff currently) and will deliver considerable benefits to the communities of Te Teko, Kawerau and Whakatane.”
Most of the positions have been earmarked for local Maori as was promised by Nongfu Springs' Chairman Zhong during meetings with iwi last December, he adds.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has accepted findings from economic research consultancy BERL, which estimates the new jobs and downstream economic impacts of the proposal will add $8.59 million to the regional economy.
Michael says the publicly notified consent hearing will allow Nongfu Spring to speak directly to the community about the job creation, economic benefits and present scientific evidence showing the proposed water take is sustainable and well within the limits set by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
Nongfu Spring supports the Council proposal to restrict the water take from the aquifer to not more than 35 per cent of the average annual recharge rate as this will ensure there will always be water in the aquifer for future generations, he says.
Nongfu Spring is committing to the community for the long-term and to the sustainable management of the artesian water resource and looks forward to engaging and supporting the next generations of whānau from Te Teko, Kawerau and Whakatane, says Michael.