Or should I say ‘Plasticised’ NZ water anyone?

A December High Court decision (now at the Court of Appeal) has affirmed an Environment Court decision that allows a Chinese-owned bottling plant at Otariki Springs in the Bay of Plenty to draw water from the aquifer, put it in plastic bottles and ship it to China.

At the rate of 1.1 million cubic metres of water a year for 25 years.

Now, I won’t go into the legal technicalities that convinced both the Environment Court and the High Court to decide against blocking this outcome.

After all, it’s the business of lawyers to find ways to justify immoral behaviour. And they’re just doing their job here … abetted unfortunately by conflicting testimony from within the Māori community that pitted the environment and mauri of the water against the promise of Māori jobs. On that point, the Environment Court sided with the jobs, a judgment not further contestable.

So let’s get this straight …

NZ charges royalties for our oil & gas, but not for our even more precious water.

So, our aquifer water is freely available for any commercial or industrial purpose – from fueling Wattie’s canned goods and any number of ‘juice’ products now produced in HB, to irrigating fruit, pastures and crops, to – oh, yes, now we object … bottling it ‘pure’ for sale.

Adding insult to injury, we then pour it in plastic bottles to the tune of billions of plastic bottles – assuming 1 litre bottles, 1.1 billion from this BOP plant alone each year … ending up who knows where. Possibly some recycled (astonishingly, the BOP company CEO claims he’s uncertain whether his bottles can be recycled!), possibly some in landfills, and – most certainly – much in oceans.

You’ll recall Hawke’s Bay has a few water bottling operations. What’s your view?

Should commercial and industrial users of water be charged for it – if so, only some of them (which ones) … or all of them?

[And I’m not asking about charging for the ‘infrastructure’ that delivers the water … I mean the water itself. Last we checked, if a farmer buys a bag of fertiliser, he pays for both the bag and its contents.]

Forget what’s in the bottles, should NZ be party to growing a plastic bottle exporting industry?

Your thoughts?

Join the Conversation


  1. All the takers of water for bottling should be charged a fee (a full market value fee – not some made up discounted thing). And all the companies should definitely be charged a special fee for every plastic bottle they fill. That fee could be dropped if they come up with a viable non-plastic, compostable bottle instead. These companies are really major polluters by issuing these horrible bottles most of which will be discarded into landfill or wind up in waterways/oceans. They should have to pay for their disregard of the pollution they cause.

  2. I agree completely. Taking pristine water offshore when the water we Kiwis drink is enough of an issue in itself. Valuable energy and resources are consumed to produce plastic bottles which then become a problem in themselves is another issue. The law needs to change so that consents to take water are limited to the purpose for which they are granted and then should lapse. Overseas investors should not be able to purchase land or businesses with water consents granted for a specific purpose then used to supply bottled water.

  3. Absolutely we should or should we not only ban water but also beer, wine and any other commodity that is in a plastic bottle. Just look around the supermarket and see the plastic single use containers of which water bottles only make up a tiny fraction.
    Plastic bottles aren’t the problem, they are the solution especially if the bottles contain water and they are recycled. The problem is that people are not recycling and governments, councils are not putting in place legislation that funds recycling or taxing for the cost of recycling at the point of sale. The fact that Otariki gets its water free is as it should be. Tom you conveniently misrepresent the court ruling that states that no one owns the water. Tom if Bottled water is to be taxed then so will all products that use or consumes water, say like milk. Each liter of milk consumes up to 1200 lts of water of which all of it becomes polluted and is mostly dumped into our environment. CO2 and methane production from milk production is enormous. Damage to our water ways is so bad from Dairy the NZ has no unpolluted water way. Bottled water could be a great income for NZ, sadly it wont be, because of the ignorance and stupidity amongst our politicians. It’s time for a real debate on the subject, I’m up for it if you are Tom.

    1. Free and unlimited go together. Limited and free do not. Is usable water unlimited – practically, no. So we can’t use it willy nilly as though it were. Priority uses need to be established and protected.

  4. Hell no.

    “When you can no longer drink the water, will you know money is useless”

    Chief Seattle, Washington USA.
    His observation of the colonizers “Columbia River”

  5. As far as I’m concerned, any product in a plastic bottle that cannot be recycled should be banned. And, yes, I do think all commercial users of water should pay for it. Maybe then we would value the precious resource that water is.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.