20 Apr 2016

'We're giving away that water for nothing'

6:15 pm on 20 April 2016

Oravida is exporting millions of litres of New Zealand water to China, and the Green Party says it is wrong that they are paying practically nothing for it, while potentially making hundreds of millions of dollars.

no caption

Photo: 123rf.com

Oravida pays about $500 a year to draw up to 400,000 litres of water a day from the Otakiri Aquifer in Bay of Plenty.

This will allow the company to take up to 146 million litres a year from the aquifer until 2026.

An Bay of Plenty Regional Council spokesperson said Oravida had paid a total $1503 for the consents since 1992, and last year paid $526 in compliance costs.

"The Resource Management Act 1991 only allows the Regional Council to recover actual and reasonable costs associated with processing and managing resource consent applications to take water," she said.

Massey University freshwater ecologist Mike Joy said the same thing will keep happening until the government charged for water.

"It's just a free for all for a tiny proportion of New Zealanders, that abuse something that belongs to all of us. Whether they be farmers polluting the water, or taking it out for irrigation, or if it's bottling companies taking it away, the core issue is that we are not putting a price on it."

Mr Joy said charging users would dramatically improve how efficiently water was used.

Greens water issues spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said it was wrong for companies like Oravida to make a profit by exporting this increasingly valuable resource.

"This is happening not only in the Bay of Plenty but all over the country. There's 74 bottling plants. But, when the water is purely for export it means we're giving away that water for nothing, when we may need it in the future."

Hundreds of people marched in Ashburton on Saturday, protesting against the council there selling off a piece of land with the right to extract 45 litres of water a second from the town's aquifers for the next 30 years.

The Green Party has called for a temporary moratorium on water bottling projects until ownership and sustainability of water is worked out.

Oravida managing director Julia Xu has been quoted in media reports saying that the company sells its water in China for $1.60 a litre. If it sold all 146 million litres of water at that price, it would make sales of $233 million a year.

Oravida declined to comment.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs