The hapū of Poroti will struggle to fight the latest application to build a water bottling company in their community. This from their spokesperson Milan Ruka. After have already contested four water take applications in the past year, he says their resources are all but spent.
Rain fell on the springs like tears when we met with Milan not far from the site proposed for a water bottling factory.
Milan says, "Stealing our water, that's how we feel. And the Government allows that process, it's a government process of allowing people to just take what they want and what is particularly more galling is the fact that they're determined to sell the whole business and the consent overseas."
NZ First candidate Shane Jones was out campaigning on the Whangarei streets today and says he supports the hapū.
"This is not an issue for Maori alone but for all New Zealanders. If someone wants to sell water overseas then they must be taxed. If you're taking gas, silver or gold, you pay tax."
The Whangarei District Council spent $1.08 million on infrastructure and research on the bore site before selling it for only $40,000 to Zodiac Holdings Limited in November 2004.
The company now goes by its trading name of New Zealand Spring Water.
Milan Ruka says despite the decision of a special tribunal in 1989 to decommission this bore and relocate downstream, the owner has been assisted by both district and regional councils to recommission the bore.
He says, "The Whangarei District Council themselves hold the consent down here and they have worked with everybody here Zodiac (Holdings) and Maungatapere Irrigation getting longer terms and assisting each other to sign off more water for longer periods. So they're already conflicted to give a consent over here, and prior before they sold it to Zodiac and so it's very conflicted."
Shane Jones says, "Their books must be opened to show how this company acquired the bore after the council had invested heavily in this infrastructure. The public need to see how they received it."
Milan refers us to the government survey maps from 1895 confirming the water supply belongs to his people.
"It was ratified in 1960 through the gazetting process, again the government authorities said this is our water supply here. So we don't have to apply for a consent, we will exercise that right very soon!"
Te Kāea is awaiting a reply from the Whangarei District Council to our request for comment.
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