13 Jun 2018

Green Party labelled 'sellout' over water decision

6:22 pm on 13 June 2018

The Green Party is facing blowback from supporters who say it has sold out after one of its ministers allowed a Chinese water bottling giant to expand.

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Eugenie Sage Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Senior Green MP and Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage has approved the expansion of an existing Otakiri Springs water bottling plant near Whakatāne.

Creswell NZ - which is owned by Chinese water bottler Nongfu Spring - lodged the application.

Ms Sage said she thought long and hard about the decision, but her hands were tied by the law.

"I made my decision as a minister. My internal feelings are irrelevant," she said.

The application satisfied the criteria set out in the Overseas Investment Act, she said.

"It was using the criteria in the Act ... if there is a substantial and identifiable benefit for New Zealanders ... then the decision must be granted."

Hundreds of commenters have lashed out on Ms Sage's Facebook page, with many labelling her a "sellout".

On Twitter, former Green MP Sue Bradford called the decision a "betrayal" and a "sad day for Green voters".

The Greens campaigned last election on banning new water bottling consents and putting a charge on water exports.

Ms Sage said the government included special enforcement conditions to ensure the company did provide its promised 60 jobs for New Zealanders.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the decision went against Green Party kaupapa and policy.

But she said the minister was constrained by a flawed Act.

"It was always going to be hard ... but we will continue to uphold our kaupapa on this while also understand the constraints of the minister."

Senior Green MP Julie Anne Genter said the problem lay with the law - not with the minister or the party.

"That's why it's important for us to be in government - so we can change the law."

Ms Sage said a review of the Overseas Investment Act is on the government's agenda.

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