Water moratorium gains iwi support

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Ngāti Kahungunu iwi supports putting a moratorium on any future water bottling consents in the Hawke's Bay region, a controversial issue that has already seen billions of litres exported overseas.

"I was pleasantly surprised because we have been asking for this for a long time, last year it fell on deaf ears so this is a good thing," says Ngahiwi Tomoana, chairman of Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule who in recent years has supported a number of water bottling ventures but has now done a u-turn after reading a State of the Environment Report 2013 which says the western section of the Heretaunga plains at Fernhill has significantly declined over the last 20 years. 

"My position has changed only because I've looked at the State of Environment which says there has been a gradual decline and I think we need to be very careful about how we allocate which I think is the lowest priority use of our water," says Yule.

However Iain Maxwell, Group Manager Resource Management at Hawkes Bay Regional Council says there is no evidence to suggest the Heretaunga aquifer is being adversely impacted by water bottling.

"Mr Yule’s comment that GW levels are declining is misleading.  Summer GW levels have declined as a result of water use but the aquifer fully recharges every winter.  There is no evidence to suggest that the resource is being mined or depleted."

"It is also worth pointing out that resource consents for water takes are not a perpetual right.  They are issued, they have a finite life and then expire and are replaced with a new consent.  At any stage throughout the life of the consent HBRC can either ‘call them in’ or review any of the conditions, including making changes to the allocation."

Though the regional council has granted consents for millions of litres of water to be exported, it says it does not have the authority to impose moratoria but it can review and make changes to those consents at any stage.

"I'm not saying there is a national moratorium I'm saying regional council needs to look at how it manages the water allocation on the Heretaunga plains if it can't do a moratorium it may have some other mechanism that says this is the lowest priority use," says Yule.

But it seems a moratorium may fall on deaf ears after the government already rejected a call from the Greens to put a stop to future water bottling deals earlier this year.