Kerry Mackintosh: Investigation of aquifers urgently needed

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Havelock North's Kerry Mackintosh, 53, was admitted to hospital for Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare secondary illness related to campylobacter. Photo/Warren Buckland
Havelock North's Kerry Mackintosh, 53, was admitted to hospital for Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare secondary illness related to campylobacter. Photo/Warren Buckland

Water has become a political hot potato.

Hastings deputy mayor Cynthia Bowers has done a complete U-turn on water bottling in Hawke's Bay, acknowledging that "the water debate is heating up".

In October last year Bowers was celebrating at the grand opening of the "exciting" $20 million Miracle Water bottling plant in Elwood Rd, Hastings. Things have heated up even more after a recent report that the Hastings District Council held a secret meeting that allocated $50,000 of your money to Miracle Water.

Lawrence Yule has since confirmed that money was paid to Miracle Water. Is this how your hard earned money should be used? Miracle Water has resource consent to take 900 million litres of water, free from our Heretaunga aquifer every year.

One Pure at Awatoto has resource consent to take 405 million litres of water per year. They are just two of the nine companies that have water bottling consents to take 4 billion litres of water free per year, mostly for export to China and other parts of Asia.

Xinghong Ju is the sole director and shareholder of New Zealand Miracle Water Ltd which currently produces 7-litre pouches in boxes.

When it reaches full production the company will deliver 90 truckloads of Hawke's Bay water per day to Napier Port. Is this what all the hard work of those who have laid down the value-added foundations of our region has come to? The foreign water bottlers must surely be laughing when they are given our pure artesian water free.

According to the Hastings District Council the water which Miracle Water is taking "was simply flowing out through the bores and into the Karamu Stream and not being used at all".

I find it very hard to believe that the directors of Elwood Road Holdings who own the site would have allowed that to happen and I have contacted the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to confirm whether they have any knowledge of water being wasted from this bore prior to the construction of the Miracle Water factory. Both Hastings District Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council are always quick to tell us that water bottling consents are a small proportion of the total water consents.

It is access to pure drinking water from the secure areas of the aquifer that is the focus for the public, not water that is suitable for industrial and horticultural use. I doubt that the people of Hawke's Bay are prepared to drink the water from most of our rivers or streams and unconfined or even some semi-confined areas of our aquifers.

The water bottling companies have access to the confined secure Heretaunga aquifer while thousands of Havelock North residents and visitors have been made seriously ill drinking water drawn from a semi-confined or leaky aquifer.

As recently as 2013 in a HB Today article, Hawke's Bay regional councillor Christine Scott took Lawrence Yule to task about the conditions of the resource consent for the Brookvale bores in Havelock North.

Mr Yule was struggling to understand why "millions of dollars should be spent to upgrade the public water supply" and swap over to other wells and pumping stations. Mr Yule wanted the regional council to explain why the changes were needed as there was "plenty of water" for everyone.

Mr Scott reminded Mr Yule that in 2008 when the 10-year consent was granted the Hastings District Council had agreed under the consent to stop taking water from the Brookvale bores by the time the consent ran out at the end of 2017 as the bores were depleting the Mangateretere Stream.

It was no surprise to me when HBRC scientist Steven Swabey mentioned at the August 31 HBRC meeting that the heavily polluted Mangateretere Stream which has very high E.coli readings and flows very close to the Brookvale bores, has been losing water into the leaky aquifer that supplies the bores.

The manner in which the different layers of our confined, semi-confined or leaky, and unconfined aquifers interact and are recharged by rivers and streams is not fully understood.

The last significant broad work was the 1997 Heretaunga Plains Groundwater Study by Dravid & Brown.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council has been mismanaging our freshwater resources for a very long time and continues to do so.

An ongoing independent investigation of our aquifers and waterways is urgently needed.

# Kerry Mackintosh is a Havelock North resident who contracted campylobacter twice in July and has Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Reactive Arthritis as a consequence.

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