I wanted to have my say as I feel strongly about water consents being given to bottling plants on the Heretaunga plains.
The only reason these water bottling plants have been set up is because there is a problem with the current resource consent process and these businesses are preying on this weakness. I am sure they would have gone elsewhere if we hadn't been so gullible and we didn't have such lovely water.
I realise various bottling plants have already got permission to take water, and have invested in buildings and infrastructure, but this must be revoked in some way. I am quite happy for my rates to increase to cover the cost of employing lawyers to challenge the situation. I understand the Regional Council employees and councillors involved were only following the Resource Management Act.
But sometimes the laws need slight tweaking to make them fair. Laws are there to serve us but don't they need changing as society, technology and values change? Water is becoming a valuable and thus saleable resource and the act should be altered to reflect this.
At this stage the council is not able to make decisions on granting consents based on how they value the entity asking for the consent. The council is apparently not able to consider what they are using the consented activity to do -- ie where the resource is ending up? This is a difficult situation. There must be other councils around the country facing similar problems?
Could the HB Regional Council ask the Government to take another look at the RMA and adjust the act to help? The council should be able to look at what the resource (water) is being used for, whether it is being returned to the land and consider any financial gains the consenter might make. It is important to separate the consent to take water, from the end use of the water. I am not arguing that the consenting process is not being followed correctly I am just saying I don't like the idea that a private business can make money from the sale of a publicly owned resource.
If it is Chinese businesses getting our water, effectively for free, then they must think we are brainless to give away a resource that is so valuable worldwide. It is not a resource that anyone can recreate; it is a finite resource that can very easily be damaged by mismanagement. A great deal of the world's population has a water supply that has been compromised by pollution, many people just don't have enough and are prepared to pay for it - and here we are just giving it away like fools.
If a farmer uses his water resource consent to water trees or fields he is returning it to the ground. If his animals drink the water it will return to the water cycle eventually -- these have little effect on the resource as it stays where it belongs. If the bottling companies were giving the water to those that don't have enough in our world, I might feel better. But they aren't, this is simply a money-making opportunity. The only cost associated with selling it is getting a container and printing a label, (once the processing plant is built) - quite an amazing and extremely lucrative business model. I hope there aren't any local councils considering asking ratepayers to have water meters and pay for their water, or even restrict the use because that would be unfair.
Put it another way, the water these people are taking from us is going to be worth a great deal more in 50 years time - what's the hurry for us to give it away now?
I am struggling to understand the scientific evidence showing it is okay to take this amount of water from the aquifer, but I am not entirely convinced -- and there is little point in me arguing as I am not an expert. Scientists will give their best ideas and thoughts on what they believe will be the effects of taking water from the aquifer -- but their thoughts should be weighed up alongside other aspects of the debate. I guess only time will tell and it will be my grandchildren who know the true answer.
The nub of the issue for me is the water belongs to all of us. It shouldn't be possible for a public body to allocate it to any business to make a direct profit.
* Steve Manning is a business owner in Napier.
* Business and civic leaders, organisers, experts in their field and interest groups can contribute opinions. The views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.