About half a dozen people against the proposed Murupara water bottling plant took the opportunity to air their opposition when Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage visited the small Bay of Plenty town today.
Murupara Water Group chairwoman Christine Hawea said about six people with placards were involved in the protest.
“We want Eugenie Sage to know there is a group who do not support the water bottling plant going ahead on tribal land,” Hawea said.
“From our own research we are confident there are never as many jobs available as stated in any proposals or consent applications, most bottling operations are largely automated, and we also have concerns about environmental risks.”
Hawea said Sage had been the one to give the green light regarding land purchase pertaining to the planned Otakiri Springs water bottling plant near Whakatane.
“While the Murupara proposal is different in regard to land ownership, her [Sage’s] decision paved the way for the Otakiri expansion.”
Early last year Bay of Plenty Regional Council approved a resource consent application to allow the first drilling and underwater testing of groundwater from farmland privately owned by Ngāti Manawa Incorporation in Murupara.
Ngāti Manawa, working collaboratively with New Zealand Aquifer and an as-yet unknown foreign investor, plan to develop two bottling plants on the land, an operation they hope will create 1500 jobs in the region.
The operation would take 18 million litres of water a day to bottle from an aquifer that indications show is capable of supplying 70 million litres a day.
Hawea is also part of a group that initiated the “Taihoa on the water bottling plant planned for Murupara” campaign.
The campaign asks Regional Council to halt the proposed NZ Aquifer bottling facility in Murupara and begin a public engagement process to determine the consensus of parties likely to be affected by the establishment of a large water bottling facility.
“We have also requested that the resource consent applicant conduct a thorough study of all the implications of the water export industry on Murupara and that the consent application be publicly notified,” Hawea said.
To date, the campaign has amassed 3138 of a targeted 4000 signatures.
The proposed facility has support from Te Runanga o Ngāti Manawa, many Murupara residents and from Whakatāne mayor Tony Bonne.
Bonne told the Rotorua Daily Post Ngāti Manawa had only agreed to go ahead once satisfied there would be no adverse effects to the water.
“Ngāti Manawa undertook a lot of research on the aquifer and were quite adamant they would not support the idea if there was a chance of damage.”
He said people within the community were often quick to get upset if bottled water was mentioned but needed to be aware of all the background work that went on to ensure the natural resource would not be damaged.