Pure water, murky debate
We are lucky in New Zealand that we have some of the most pristine waterways in the world.
A side-effect of our amazing environment is that people literally want to bottle it.
The issue of water-bottling is contentious and sometimes emotional.
Whether to make waterbottling companies pay royalties for this free, plentiful and easy to obtain resource is a tricky issue to navigate. Let’s look at the facts. NZ Pure Blue has made a submission to Waikato Regional Council to take up to 6.9 million litres of fresh water from Putaruru’s famous Blue Spring in Waihou River. Coca-cola Amatil, the largest consent-holder of water from the river, takes up to 200,000 litres a day.
This plan has potential to earn millions of dollars for NZ Pure Blue, which will export every drop it takes from this spring.
While it may seem unfair that the company will make a profit from something that belongs to all of us, and is free in its natural form, consider this. NZ Pure Blue says it will create the largest water-bottling plant in the southern hemisphere in Putaruru.
One of its key objectives, the company says, is to revitalise the town by increasing overall social and economic benefits to the community. This has to be a consideration. A Berl report with the submission estimates construction will deliver jobs and revenue to the community and once up and running, the plant could employ close to 200 employees.
This number jumps to somewhere between 483 and 566 jobs once the wider flow-on benefits are considered – 6-7 per cent of employment in South Waikato. The Berl report also suggests between $25-31 million in GDP could result from a bottling plant in full production.
As the local MP, I want to ensure opportunities to grow our towns and district are considered from all angles in terms of decision-making by Waikato Regional Council.
In addition, the Government is looking at the issue of charging for water taken for bottled water, but not in isolation from other uses. It is also considering whether it should give greater direction on allocation. A technical advisory group is due to report back on reform options in December.
In the meantime, debate will continue on the issue. We all need fresh water, and it is something NZ has an abundance of. We also want opportunities for the people in our district.