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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 forermost should belong to all New Zealanders,” he added.

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 about a publicly owned resource. Worse still the National-led government encouraged Chinese interests to bottle New Zealand water.

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

He recalled Maori leader Tipene O’Regan telling a MBA class that the Treaty of Waitangi involved Maori giving up sovereignty in exchange for protection of the Crown.

“But the Crown has failed to protect the water resource of Maori and in today’s world, of all New Zealanders,” said Peter Trolove.

In the case of freshwater water, short term government policies and regional councils captured by agribusiness interests, had failed to protect water - a common resource owned by all New Zealanders.

“In essence the Crown has failed to meet its obligations to the Treaty and to all New Zealanders.”

Peter Trolove said Maori leading up to 1840 had some valued insights as how to value water for the collective good of their people. However the concept of “ownership of water” was a European philosophy that applied to all New Zealanders regardless of ethnic background.

The NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers was set up in 1974 to oppose commercial ownership of trout by way of trout farming and subsequently ownership of trout habitat of water.

“Giving any subset of New Zealanders ownership of freshwater is just as wrong as poor stewardship by central and regional government. Two wrongs will not make it right,” he said. “Government should urgently move to enshrine in law, public ownership of water.”


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