24 Aug 2012

Springs hapu want all water applications held

9:27 pm on 24 August 2012

The Maori owners of Poroti Springs near Whangarei say all water applications should go on hold following the Waitangi Tribunal's interim report on water rights.

The report, released on Friday, advises the Government to stop the partial sale of state owned power companies until it has sorted out Maori water rights.

The Whatitiri Maori Trustees are fighting a bid by an Auckland company, Zodiac Holdings, to double the amount of water it's entitled to take from the Poroti Springs, so it can start up a bottled water export business.

The company has had a water right over Poroti Springs since 2002 but has never used it.

However, it has been doing the marketing groundwork for an export water-bottling business targeting markets in China, Japan and Indonesia, and has been advised it needs twice its present allowable volume to make the business viable.

The Poroti Springs were vested in Whangarei hapu in 1895 by the Maori Land Court.

The hapu say they've accepted the use of the spring for a public water supply and local irrigation but the Zodiac take is purely commercial and flouts their proprietary rights and their role as environmental guardians.

Hapu spokesperson Taipari Munro told a Northland Regional Council resource consent hearing in Whangarei on Friday the Zodiac interest was purely commercial.

"And they have the opportunity to sell on the water of Poroti and to make money from it, and yet the people of Poroti who have had centuries of cultural connection to that water have had nothing from it."

Mr Munro says in the light of the tribunal's finding, all water rights holders should be sitting down and talking to tangata whenua.

The hapu is also party to the Maori Council's freshwater claim before the Waitangi Tribunal.