Water Bottling is not our future – Open letter to our elected members and MP’s

Water Bottling is not our future – Open letter to our elected members and MP’s

Open Letter to Bay of Plenty Regional and Local Council Elected Members, and MP’s

Today our local newspaper headlined the dire state of our traffic situation.

But there is a looming calamity at our doorstep that will compound this issue faster than our ability to build our way out of it.  Global water scarcity and New Zealand’s regulatory settings are a perfect storm for a water bottling ‘gold rush’.

We know that 3 new water-bottling mega-plants are proposed for the Bay – the first to be consented will generate one new truck/trailer movement every 3 minutes between Otakiri and the Port of Tauranga.  The two additional plants planned for Murupara will need to move three times that amount. At a recent UFTI (the Bay of Plenty’s new Urban Form and Transport Initiative) presentation it was mentioned that 500 trucks per day will be generated from these plants, travelling to the Port.

These truck and trailer units will inevitably travel along the already-congested Hewletts Road, and into the port, bringing parts of our city to a standstill.  If any one of you believes that trains are the answer to the road congestion created by these trucks, the proposed Murapara plant could fill 20 laden trains per day, that will result in the barrier arms halting traffic flows along our strategic arterial routes creating the same outcome.

In five years, we may be seeing more trucks carrying our water packed into plastic bottles than kiwifruit, logging or produce trucks.  Nothing ramps up faster than an industry with a free resource to plunder!

We need to consider very carefully the long term implications of providing overseas corporate access to our fresh water. We note that legal protections are currently inadequate.  Billion-dollar international corporations will waste no time finding and exploiting loopholes, and challenging any regulatory changes that might affect their profit margins. We should not underestimate the future value of our water resource in a world experiencing climate change.

Councillors and Ministers, we realise that many of you feel your hands have been tied – perhaps by the perceived limitations of the Resource Management Act, the Overseas Investment Act, our Free Trade Agreements or the limitations of your role in office.  Perhaps decisions made earlier in time have influenced your ability to do the right thing.  We understand – but now is the time to call out those things that have ‘tied’ your hands, whether they be regulations or failed systems.

Until quite recently these bottling plants may have seemed like a good idea for our region.  However, times have changed, our collective awareness has changed, and in just a few years the urgency of our environmental crisis has struck home. David Attenborough in “Our Planet” has decried our lack of action and painted a bleak picture of the future. We believe that most of us are deeply worried and frightened with where this is heading.

To put it plainly, we must meet our duty to pass on a liveable world to our grandchildren.  We don’t have the right to steal that from them. A poignant and tragic example of this type of theft would be to allow ANYONE to take our precious fresh water from the ground, bottle it into single use plastic bottles, truck it to port and send it half way around the world. If you don’t yet understand the ecological criminality of this you will find very soon that there will be no place for you as leaders, we are all waking up rapidly to the reality that we have to change.

But we believe you do understand, and this is not a blame game, this is a call to action, and a bid for your help.

Please stand with us. Below is a list of things you can do to help.

[Footnote: Tangata Whenua will not miss the irony of the themes in this letter, and their rightful place is at every level of this conversation. That we are their partners under the Treaty of Waitangi goes without saying, however we do not have the mandate or depth of understanding to weave this into the text here.]

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What can you do?

We believe the Otakiri Appeal has a good chance of success but we don’t want small communities across the region and across NZ to have to continue to fight this unwanted industry.

Please lobby hard for the following changes that will collectively ensure our sovereignty and our grandchildren’s right to clean water: Support changes to the RMA that will ensure greater public participation in resource consenting decisions.

  • Call for your local regional council to exercise its power to create rules in their Plans to appropriately allocate water amongst competing activities, including rules to control or prohibit water bottling in your region. Your plan rules should not only base decisions on whether taking the water is sustainable, but whether the use the water is being put to is also sustainable. We can and should use water allocation to create the kinds of communities we want to live in.
  • Call on the Government to require regional councils to create rules in their Plans to control or prohibit water bottling.
  • Support legislation changes to ensure greater public participation in resource consent processes.
  • Support changes to the RMA that will allow notification decisions to be challenged in the Environment Court rather than the High Court via judicial review.
  • Support greater public participation in publicly notified applications by calling on councils to advertise them widely.
  • Call for better resourcing of the Environmental Legal Assistance (ELA)  Fund – currently only $600,000 is available to fund community appeals.
  • Call for new funding criteria for the ELA Fund so that there is money available to challenge unlawful administration of the Act.
  • Call for changes to the Overseas Investment Act (OIA) 2005 that will make all land with large water takes, ‘sensitive’ under the Act.
  • Call for changes to the OIA that will ensure the end use of water is a factor that must be considered by the Minister and that must be included in enforceable consent conditions.

On a personal level, you could also reach in to your pocket as we have done and put $30 towards the Pledgeme campaign of the small Otakiri community currently trying to hold the giant at bay on their own. Love Our Wai .

You could then share it to all of your friends and networks and ask them to do the same.

You could write your own message on a used plastic bottle and come and join us on the beach at Omanu on the 19th of May at 12 mid-day, and stand in solidarity with us. We plan to place 2400 bottles in a pile there to see for ourselves what one-minute’s worth of production from the Otakiri plant looks like. 2400 Bottles On The Beach
We can’t show you a year’s worth because it’s over half a billion, and we’ve got other stuff on…

Yours Sincerely,

Heidi Hughes, Sue McArthur, (Greater Tauranga)
Maureen Fraser (Sustainable Otakiri)
Niki Gladding (Aotearoa Water Action)
Deborah Crowe, (Love and Care)

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