When Nick Smith was questioned about the fact that overseas-owned companies can export freshwater they have bottled for free here in NZ, he answered that there is plenty of water, and at the moment there are only a few companies involved. Our most precious resource and indeed necessity is being bottled and sold offshore for 100% pure profit. Companies pay only minimal resource consent fees, but no royalties on the resource they are taking. But I guess that’s what the Government means by “no one owns water”; let’s just give it to the corporates.
The first problem with this is the breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. But what about the proprietorial and kaitiakitanga rights of tangata whenua? The second problem is that with advancing climate change and risks from regional drought we will need all our water. The third problem is that in some regions food producers are already struggling to get a fair allocation of water without it being sucked up and offshore. Then there is the state of our rivers and aquifers, they need cleaning up rather than further exploitation. The new export bottling company in Hawkes Bay has had two shiploads of bottled water returned from China because the water was too contaminated with nitrates to meet their drinking water standards.
Call me old fashioned but if we cleaned up water we could drink it from the tap and from the waterways rather than littering the world with our plastic bottles of alleged pure water. Achieving clean drinkable water in all our rivers and aquifers may be some way off but in the meantime the last thing we should do is allow it to be sold for nothing and exported to other countries where they too need to clean up their water.
There is a valley of sacred springs in Golden Bay with a beautiful interpretation walkway which tangata whenua have developed for everyone’s appreciation of the sources of life. The water is translucent and pure but a bottling company now have rights in the catchment with no reference to tangata whenua. The same thing has happened at Poroti near Whangarei. This is wrong and the Government needs to address it urgently.