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Public Ownership of Water Must be Enshrined in Law

Steps should be taken by a high priority Water Act to put ownership of water firmly and clearly into public ownership with strong safeguards written in to ensure its future says a rivers and trout-fishing advocacy, the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers.

President Dr. Peter Trolove said the need was highlighted by news of Chinese owned Cloud Ocean Water had stopped production at its Belfast water bottling plant in Christchurch.

“It’s well nigh time for reassessment of the messy situation and immediate action over the lack of security of the public’s rivers and aquifers,” he said. “The precarious state of water both in quality and quantity has been caused by politicians cultivating uncertainty and allowing exploitation for profit.”

A Public Ownership Water Act should

(a) put ownership of water into public ownership

(b) Ban tradeable water rights

(c) Ban private profiteering of water for export

(d) Ban foreign involvement

“There’s nothing xenophobic about this as water firmly and forermostshould belong to all New Zealanders,” he added.

It was ridiculous to deny New Zealanders ownership of their water. A parallel was that New Zealanders could not buy land in China.

Referring to governments’ role in the issue was the immediate-past prime minister John Key saying water belonged to nobody. and thus introducing vagueness and uncertainty Worse still the National-led government encouraged Chinese interests to come and bottle New Zealand water.

“That was wrong and horribly wrong to give it to them for free,” said Peter Trolove.

But current National Party Leader Simon Bridges recently said the previous National-led government did nothing wrong by courting a Chinese company Nong Fu to set up a water bottling plant near Whakatane and stressed that the final decision was made by current Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage.

“That is an appalling admission. National set up the concept and machinery for it to happen then denies any responsibility.”

Whakatane locals have been outraged at recent findings that the previous government actively encouraged Nong Fu to apply to take more than a billion litres of water per year from Otakiri springs.

Peter Trolove said the Canterbury water resource was in tatters due to the National government’s hell-bent determination to turn dry rainfall areas into lush dairying pasture. Giant irrigators on corporate farms had depleted river flows while cow effluent and topdressing had caused heavy leaching of nitrates into rivers and aquifers at the expense of river and human health. The region now has 1.3 million dairy cattle grazing the Canterbury plains.

Recent warnings by freshwater ecologist Mike Joy that Hawke's Bay could become the new Canterbury if it continued down the path of large-scale irrigation and water storage projects, showed the situation dire he said. The result were rivers like the Selwyn in summer, dry and slime infested pools, flows in rivers like the Rakaia sapped and the medical officer of health warning of nitrates already showing up throughout Canterbury, some at levels above the World Health Organisation's maximum allowable value of 11.3mg per litre. In addition a Danish study of 2.7 million people, found a link between nitrates in drinking water and bowel cancer. Canterbury has reportedly one of the highest in the world rates of bowel cancer.

“”And while the situation worsened dramatically over the National-led government’s term, of 2008-17, the current government is in danger of sitting on its hands despite all three coalition parties promising pre-last election to clean up rivers,” said Peter Trolove. “We don’t want inertia by stagnation by committees. We want action and a new law.”


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