Who pays for liq­uid gold­mine

South Waikato News - - Front Page - ELTON RIKIHANA SMALL­MAN

Par­ties across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum agree bot­tling com­pa­nies should pay for the wa­ter they take but the Gov­ern­ment is sit­ting on the fence.

With less than 90 days re­main­ing be­fore polling day, it looks as if wa­ter pric­ing could blow up as a key elec­tion is­sue.

Last week, bot­tling com­pany New Zealand Pure Blue Lim­ited ap­plied for the rights to take 6.9 mil­lion litres of wa­ter per day from the Wai­hou River’s Blue Spring near Pu­taruru, South Waikato.

It’s the lat­est chap­ter in­fu­ri­at­ing peo­ple around the coun­try where bil­lions of litres of wa­ter are des­tined for ex­port and at no cost for the raw prod­uct.

Wa­ter New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive John Pfahlert called for a na­tional dis­cus­sion on a wa­ter pric­ing regime

NZ Pure Blue Springs said the Pu­taruru op­er­a­tion, the lat­est in a string of wa­ter grabs, will be the ‘‘largest pro­duc­tion bot­tling plant in the south­ern hemi­sphere, ex­port­ing 100 per­cent of its prod­ucts’’ and pro­vid­ing 200 full­time jobs to the lo­cal econ­omy.

Pfahlert said the pub­lic is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ag­i­tated and the Gov­ern­ment needs to act.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Nick Smith said the Gov­ern­ment is open to charg­ing as long as it’s a fair sys­tem.

‘‘It would not make sense to charge wa­ter bot­tlers but not an ad­ja­cent soft drink or beer com­pany,’’ Smith said.

Lo­cal iwi, Raukawa, have been con­sulted over the NZ Pure Blue ap­pli­ca­tion.

‘‘Our pri­or­ity will al­ways be on en­sur­ing the pro­tec­tion of the health and well-be­ing of the en­vi­ron­ment and in this in­stance Te Puna (the spring),’’ Ruakawa Set­tle­ment Trust chair Vanessa Eparaima said.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw was in Waikato on Tues­day. He vis­ited Pu­taruru and the Wai­hou River and said com­pa­nies should pay a re­source rental for the wa­ter they take.

Lo­cal MP Louise Up­ston said she wanted to en­sure there were op­por­tu­ni­ties ‘‘to grow our towns and dis­trict’’ and the is­sue should be ‘‘con­sid­ered from all an­gles’’ by Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil.

Bot­tled wa­ter is a frac­tion of what is taken for ir­ri­ga­tion, town sup­ply and in­dus­try use.

The coun­try’s fresh­wa­ter re­source is 500 tril­lion litres with 50 tril­lion litres ex­tracted. Bot­tled wa­ter ex­ports amount to 9 mil­lion litres.

FAIR­FAX NZ

Blue Spring near Pu­taruru.

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