A director of the West Coast water export company - which finds itself at the centre of a public maelstrom 25 years after resource consents were first issued - says the water would be piped to tankers anchored more than 6km offshore from Jackson Bay.
Okuru Enterprises Ltd, now trading as Alpine Pure, last year renewed its consents with the West Coast Regional Council, and has applied to do the same with the Westland District Council.
The consents were first issued in 1991 to take bulk water from a tributary of the Arawhata River, and pipe it to waiting ships for export to the likes of the Middle East.
However, even though the company has so far not managed to export a drop of water, the consent renewal has drawn objections from some neighbours, Heritage New Zealand and has now come to the attention of the national water lobby group Bung the Bore, based in Ashburton.
Okuru Enterprises director Helen Rasmussen, of Haast, when asked if she was surprised by the sudden attention after 25 years, said "yes and no".
"It's been a long, protracted process," Rasmussen said.
Bung the Bore raised concerns yesterday that Alpine Pure was trading on the World Heritage status of the area to sell its water and that it would potentially affect tourism.
Rasmussen, who owns the Haast Supermarket and relies on tourism for a living, refuted that.
She also noted that the construction would be no different from a small town water supply; all the pipes would be underground and buried in the seabed.
Okuru chairman Peter Roselli said yesterday the water, to be sourced from the alpine Tuning Fork Creek, currently just ran out to sea via the Arawhata River.
Rasmussen added that the water would not be drawn from a dam, lake or aquifer, but a simple weir in the creek.
"It's being portrayed as ships piling up at the (Jackson Bay) wharf. They will (instead) be 6.2km offshore."
The water would be piped to a mono-buoy anchored offshore, and from there to ships. She noted that Jackson Bay had been used commercially since the earliest days of European settlement, when timber was exported to Australia.
Bung the Bore, led by Ashburton woman Jen Branje, says it plans to lobby the consent hearing at Haast, starting on February 24.
It has also set up a Givealittle page to try to raise funds to oppose the water exports, saying: "We saved Ashburton from a dodgy water deal, now we are advocating for the whole of New Zealand. Your donation will be used for costs associated with our water advocacy campaign".
- Greymouth Star