At least 500 people turned out to a beach protest in Tauranga against plastic used by the growing Eastern Bay of Plenty water bottling industry.

The protest, organised by Greater Tauranga and Why Waste, was held at Omanu Beach today.

Protesters made a mound of empty plastic bottles in the sand.

They planned to have 2400 bottles, the number of bottles protest organisers said the Cresswell NZ operation in Otakiri would be able to produce every minute if allowed to expand.

Advertisement

They argued that number would soar if a proposal for two new bottling plants in Murupara also came to fruition.

Cresswell NZ disputed the 2400 figure this week, with managing director Michael Gleissner saying he expected the plant would produce around 1800 bottles a minute.

He said the bottles would either be glass, made from recycled plastic or made from recyclable plastic.

Children and young people joined the protest today, some holding signs such as "sense not dollars" and "protect my future".

Zack Robinson, 7, in the mound of plastic bottles protesters created at Omanu beach today. Photo / George Novak
Zack Robinson, 7, in the mound of plastic bottles protesters created at Omanu beach today. Photo / George Novak

Ōhauiti couple Serge and Dunja Balmer and their children Makani, 2, and Amber, 6, were at the protest.

Serge said he was shocked when he first read about the granting of resource consents a couple of months ago.

"Given the size of our waste mountain, which we can't even deal with now, this just does not make sense. It's illogical and absolutely wrong, and we have to stop it from going ahead."

Omanu resident Debbie Karl said the Bay had to look after its "precious water resources and beautiful environment".

Advertisement

"That means not making more plastic water bottles which can't be broken down."

Ōhauiti couple Serge and Dunja Balmer and their children Makani, 2, and Amber, 6, were among the action on the beach. Photo / George Novak
Ōhauiti couple Serge and Dunja Balmer and their children Makani, 2, and Amber, 6, were among the action on the beach. Photo / George Novak

Heidi Hughes, spokeswoman for Greater Tauranga, urged those in attendance to join her in calling for a New Zealand-wide ban on exporting water.

"Industries like this certainly don't produce anything of value. What they produce is plastics, carbon and inequality," she said.

Cresswell NZ has resource consent from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and land use consent from the Whakatāne District Council to expand the existing Otakiri Springs plant.

The company, owned by Chinese water bottling giant Ngonfu Springs, said the expansion would create 60 new jobs.

Two iwi groups under Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa, along with Sustainable Otakiri, will challenge those consents in the Environment Court at Whakatāne from Monday.

The protest was timed to support that effort.

The bottles were expected to be collected after the protest.