Have your say on bottling plant

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OTAKIRI Spring’s resource consent application to increase the amount of water it takes for bottling purposes by more than four times was publicly notified yesterday.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council announced its decision yesterday, allowing anyone to lodge a submission to support, oppose or indicate a neutral position to the proposal from Cresswell New Zealand on behalf of Chinese company Nongfu Spring.

Currently, the company can take 1200 cubic metres each day at a rate of up to 13.9 litres per second for bottling. The application seeks to increase the take to 5000 cubic metres per day at a rate of up to 58 litres a second

The application also includes requests to undertake earthworks to expand the physical plant and an increase to the amount of stormwater and wastewater discharged into the waterways and onto land by the company.

Regional council consents manager Reuben Fraser said the regional council reached its decision after applying Resource Management Act criteria.

“The [act] sets clear guidelines around when consent applications must, and must not, be notified. In this case we had discretion and have opted to notify on the basis that we will likely be able to make a more informed decision following a public process.

“There are several stages to the resource consent process and we are now part way through. Submissions will be accepted from today until 5pm Monday February 5. Following the submission period, we will look at the next steps which will likely include appointing commissioners and holding a hearing.

“This is not a quick process and we are a while off confirming whether consent will be granted.”

Cresswell New Zealand director Michael Gleissner said the company recognised there was a strong public interest in the subject of awarding consents to take water but believed the Resource Management Act process would help people understand the benefits and value of the application.

“As we’ve said before, we’re prepared to pay a royalty on the commercial use of water, should the Government decide to impose one, provided it is fair and equitable. We also believe the proceeds from any royalty should be invested back into the Eastern Bay community.”

Mr Gleissner said Nongfu Spring had invested considerable time and funds in supporting the Eastern Bay community, including providing water following the Edgecumbe floods.

He said the company included an economic research report in its application that estimated the economic impacts of the proposal would add $8.59 million to the regional economy.

“If consent is granted, we will create real local jobs for local people, particularly Maori. When completed, the plant will employ 60 staff, up from eight staff currently, and will deliver considerable benefits to the communities of Te Teko, Kawerau and Whakatane.”

Otakiri Save our Water group spokeswoman Maureen Fraser said they were pleased the regional council decided to publicly notify the consent.

“Many New Zealanders are passionately against such water use and public notification means anyone and everyone can have their say on water mining.

“We urge people to get on to the regional council website ‘current notified applications’ and submit their thoughts. Otakiri Save our Water will hold community hui in January to help people find out more about the application and complete submissions before February 5.”

Meanwhile, the regional council has determined that a resource consent application by Aquifer NZ, to take water for a proposed bottling plant in Murupara, is incomplete.

In a letter to the company, Mr Fraser outlined the assessment of effects for the proposed activity was not sufficient because pump tests were not undertaken in the proposed location and depth and therefore the effects of the proposed activity were unable to be fully assessed and understood.

The letter also recommended the company construct a shallow bore to monitor the groundwater levels, provide further information on neighbours’ bores and engage with the four iwi that could have an interest in it.

karla.akuhata@whakatanebeacon.co.nz