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Our Water is a Political Hot Potato

Our Water is a Political Hot Potato
by Kerry Mackintosh

Water has become a political hot potato in Hawkes Bay. Hastings District Council Deputy Mayor and Hawkes Bay Regional Council candidate Cynthia Bowers remains in favour of the Rutataniwha dam albeit with a list of conditions, but has done a complete U turn on water bottling in Hawkes Bay acknowledging that ‘the water debate is heating up’. In October last year Bowers was celebrating at the grand opening of the ‘exciting’ $20 million Miracle Water bottling plant in Ellwood Road Hastings. Things have heated up even more after a recent accusation by HBRC Councillor Tom Belford that the Hastings District Council held a secret meeting that allocated $50,000 of public money to Miracle Water. Mayor Lawrence Yule has since confirmed that this is correct.

Miracle Water has resource consent to take 900 million litres of water, free from our Heretaunga aquifer every year. One Pure at Awatoto has resource consent to take 405 million litres of water per year. They are just two of the nine companies that have water bottling consents to take 4 billion litres of water free per year, mostly for export to China and other parts of Asia. Xinghong Ju is the sole director and shareholder of New Zealand Miracle Water Ltd which currently produces 7 litre pouches in boxes. When it reaches full production the company will deliver 90 truckloads of Hawkes Bay water per day to Napier Port. The foreign water bottlers must surely be laughing when they are given our pure artesian water free.

According to the minutes of a Hastings District Council meeting, the water which Miracle Water is now taking ‘was simply flowing out through the bores and into the Karamu Stream and not being used at all’. This is doubtful but Bore 16299 was an existing one and the Hawkes Bay Regional Council are yet to confirm whether they have any knowledge of water being wasted from this bore prior to the construction of the Miracle Water factory.

Both Hastings District Council and Hawkes Bay Regional Council are always quick to tell us that water bottling consents are a small proportion of the total water consents. However it is access to pure drinking water from the secure areas of the aquifer that is the focus for the public, not water that is suitable for industrial and horticultural use. I doubt that the people of Hawkes Bay are prepared to drink the water from most of our rivers or streams and unconfined or even some semi confined areas of our aquifers.

The water bottling companies have access to the confined secure Heretaunga aquifer while thousands of Havelock North residents and visitors have been made seriously ill drinking water drawn from a semi-confined or leaky aquifer.

As recently as 2013 in a HB Today article, Hawkes Bay Regional Councillor, Christine Scott, took Lawrence Yule to task about the conditions of the resource consent for the Brookvale bores in Havelock North. Mr Yule was struggling to understand why “millions of dollars should be spent to upgrade the public water supply” and swap over to other wells and pumping stations. Mr Yule wanted the Regional Council to explain why the changes were needed as there was "plenty of water" for everyone. Cr Scott reminded Mr Yule that in 2008 when the 10 year consent was granted the Hastings District Council had agreed under the consent to stop taking water from the Brookvale bores by the time the consent ran out at the end of 2017 as the bores were depleting the Mangateretere Stream. It was no surprise to me when HBRC scientist Steven Swabey mentioned at the 31 August HBRC meeting that the heavily polluted Mangateretere Stream which has very high e coli readings and flows very close to the Brookvale bores, has been losing water into the leaky aquifer that supplies the bores.

The manner in which the different layers of our confined, semi-confined or leaky, and unconfined aquifers interact and are recharged by rivers and streams is not fully understood. The Hawkes Bay Regional Council should not have issued any large water bottling consents. An ongoing independent investigation of our aquifers and waterways is urgently needed. The last significant broad work was the 1997 Heretaunga Plains Groundwater Study by Dravid & Brown. The Hawkes Bay Regional Council has been mismanaging our freshwater resources for a very long time and continues to do so.


Kerry Mackintosh lives in Havelock North and contracted campylobacter twice in July and as a consequence developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome & reactive arthritis (Reiters Syndrome)

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