The company behind a proposal to drain millions of litres of water a day from a popular spring to sell overseas has revealed it is only 39 per cent New Zealand-owned.
NZ Pure Blue, also known as NZ Pure Blue Springs Limited, has lodged a resource consent application to drain 6.9 million litres form the Putaruru Blue Spring in the Waikato to bottle locally and offshore.
A source informed the Herald that the company told members of the local iwi, the Raukawa Settlement Trust, at a meeting in Tokoroa on Monday night that 61 per cent of the company was owned by overseas investors including 10 per cent Australian and some Chinese.
Company director Royden Hartnett met with the trust to brief iwi members about its proposal.
During the three-hour meeting, attended by about 40 people, Hartnett is understood to have said that most of the US$170 million ($228.3m) to be invested in the new venture would go into the bottling plant to be established at the old Carter Holt Harvey site near the Putaruru Hotel.
Iwi were also told 237 jobs would be created from the venture, only 10 of which would be filled outside New Zealand.
The meeting got heated at times as those attending asked Hartnett questions - some which remained unanswered, according to the source.
The company wrote in its water consent application to the Waikato Regional Council that it had consulted with the Raukawa Settlement Trust and had the support of the South Waikato District Council.
South Waikato District Council chief executive Craig Hobbs said council's concern was that the community received a return on the company being based in Putaruru and taking water from the Blue Spring.
The council was in the process of negotiating a contract with NZ Pure Blue Springs which, if and when agreed, would provide comfort over the company's credibility, Hobbs said.
The agreement, which the council said was confidential, included ensuring a community trust received a donation each year and that the company kept its promise over the number of new jobs that would be created.
When asked about ownership, the council said it had not "investigated" the company.
Meanwhile Waikato Regional Council is still processing the resource consent application and did not have a timeframe of when it would be completed.
A decision has not yet been made about whether the application would be publicly notified, which could require an extension to the timeline.
The decision to notify the public would be made after consideration of the relevant matters in the Resource Management Act and the regional plan, a council spokesman said.
Raukawa Settlement Trust chairwoman Vanessa Eparaima told the Herald: "Our priority will always be on ensuring the protection of the health and wellbeing of the environment and in this instance Te Puna. The issue of water extraction is a significant one for not only Raukawa, but all in the communities we share. The priority for Raukawa is to consider all the key information so we are fully informed, and to meet with our people, before deciding on what position we will collectively take."
Hartnett would not comment on the meeting, saying NZ Pure Blue would make a full public statement once the consent application was completed.
He referred the Herald to the Companies Office for official company information regarding shareholding and directors. This shows NZ Pure Blue and NZ Pure Blue Springs are owned wholly by Christchurch-based accounting and business advisory firm Walker Davey Searells. The Overseas Investment Office confirmed it had not received an application from either of the NZ Pure Blue companies.
The company first attempted to purchase the right to extract and export 1.4 billion litres of pure, artesian water last year in Ashburton but the deal was cancelled in last July after public backlash.
It has now turned its sights to the South Waikato.