Questions are being asked after a lucrative water consent attached to a former wool scouring plant in Christchurch went on the market.

Newshub reported tonight the Kaputone wool scouring plant in Belfast is about to be sold off and, with it, a water consent allowing the extraction of more than 4.3 million litres of water a day - the equivalent of 50 one-litre bottles a second.

The only cost is $100 - if inspected - and the consent does not expire until 2032.

Our water is in demand for bottling and export, as well as farming use, but it is an area of contention. There have been concerns over the environmental impacts, especially on river flows.


This week, water rights campaigners called for a moratorium on exporting drinking water.

Bung the Bore is a campaign begun when the Ashburton District Council tried to sell land with a water consent to a bottled water company.

The sale failed and the group went to Parliament yesterday to present a 15,000-signature petition asking for the moratorium until it was made compulsory for all resource consent applications to take water for bottling to be publicly notified, Radio New Zealand reported.

Bung the Bore, who are also opposed to also opposed to large-scale dairy farming, are planning rallies in 21 towns around the country.

Meanwhile, Newshub reported those behind the sale of Kaputone - owner Cavalier Carpets and its shareholder Direct Capital - would not reveal who the prospective buyers are.

Several workers told the broadcaster they believed Chinese interests are involved.

The site is under five hectares and not considered sensitive land so it is unlikely the sale will need to go through the Overseas Investment Office.

Labour MP David Parker said the public had a right to get a return when a precious resource is being used for private profit. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said there should be a royalty paid if water consents were bought and water exported.

But Environment Minister Nick Smith told Newshub the Government was "not concerned" about the sale, and who the potential buyers could be.

"It is not a particular concern to me when New Zealand only uses 2 per cent of its total water resource ... I am not concerned about overseas investment in the water industry, any more than I am in the dairy industry, or the apple industry, or the wine industry."