Monday, November 05, 2018

Sucking us dry

Foreign water bottling plants are a ripoff for New Zealand. Foreigners are essentially given a resource for free, and they then turn around and sell it for at least $1 a litre. That's morally odious and corrupt, but it gets worse: in Christchurch, extracting water to bottle and sell overseas is actually going to threaten drinking water supplies:

A bottling company's bid to take millions of litres of water from a key aquifer could threaten Christchurch's drinking supplies, warns a senior city council manager.

China-owned firm Cloud Ocean Water has this week applied to Environment Canterbury (ECan) for permission to extract water from a 186m-deep bore at its Belfast plant so it can sell it abroad.

But documents published online by a leading councillor reveal serious worries that approving the request could compromise the aquifer and leave parts of the city short of drinking water.


"[The deep bore] is located within council's North West water supply zone where we are planning for a 50 per cent increase in demand over the next 30 years, 20 per cent of which is expected to be realised within the next 10 years.

"There are several future residential and industrial growth areas in close proximity to this proposal … that may therefore also trigger increased future industrial demand."

This is like Ashburton, only worse. One of our major cities is going to be sucked dry, its residents left to go thirsty while foreigners drink their water. But Ashburton also shows how you handle it: organise, threaten the council at the ballot box, and let political cowardice take its course. Voters need to make it clear that they will not tolerate being sold out, and de-elect every councillor who supports bottling. But that's not enough. Because as long as the law supports this pillage on a national level, people are still going to try it.

We need to change that law. If we can't outlaw extraction for export, we should at least make sure these foreigners pay a fair price for our water. At the usual prices, Cloud Ocean Water stands to make tens of billions of dollars from its consent. And its only right that a fair chunk of that money flows straight back to its owners: Ngai Tahu and the people of New Zealand.