Water divides Maori

INTERCONNECTION: The waters on the Rangitaiki Plains are all connected, including the Tarawera River say hapu submitters. Photo Louis Klaassen D6835-45

A MAORI housing trust has come out in support of the company hoping to expand production at the Otakiri Springs bottling plant, despite opposition from other tangata whenua groups.

Kokohinau Papakainga trust has made a submission backing Creswell NZ’s application for resource consent to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

Formed to represent the interest of the Chinese business, Nong Fu, in New Zealand, Creswell NZ has applied for resource consent to increase the amount of groundwater taken for commercial bottling purposes to an annual allocation of 1.1 million cubic meters of water.

It also wants to undertake earthworks associated with increased production and to discharge wastewater.

A hearing into the application will start on April 30 and papakainga trust representatives will speak to support the application. The trust is made up of chairman Hemana Eruera, Rihi Vercoe and Robert Thompson.

The submission was written by Ms Vercoe, who is the trust secretary, and states that the trustees support the application because of the benefits it will provide for Maori from the Rangitaiki Plains.

“The application outlines sustainable management of the water resource. The Otakiri Springs plan expansion will provide safe, full-time local jobs for local whanau; Creswell New Zealand is committed to working with mana whenua hapu – nga tangata whenua and iwi in a kaitiaki (guardian) role, to protect the mauri of the natural water resource.

“A team of Nong Fu partner company China-based executives have already adequately consulted our hapu members, to build meaningful relationships, and make well- informed decisions concerning planned expansion of their water bottling plant.”

In an interview, Ms Vercoe said the papakainga trust made the submission because they were the closest Maori group to the bottling plant. She said the papakainga trust was set up following the Edgecumbe floods to build emergency housing and received Government funding for the project.

The papakainga trust will open the housing development today. Ms Vercoe denies it has received any payment to support the Creswell NZ application.

The submission is in stark contrast to many of the others received by the regional council.
When it was revealed, in 2016, that owners David Oliphant, Jim Robertson and Kenneth Young wanted to sell the Otakiri Springs bottling plant to Nong Fu, the news sparked public outrage, followed by public protests and community meetings.

Now, the regional council has received a large volume of submissions, many of which oppose the application.

TWO BY TWO: The emergency housing project at Kokohinau Marae, which is to be unveiled today. Photo Karla Akuhata D6846-3

Among those opposing it are several Maori groups including the Rangitaiki Hapu Coalition, Ngati Hamua and a joint submission made by Ngai Tamawera hapu chairman Monte Aranga, Te Tawera hapu chairman Pouroto Ngaropo and Ngati Awa tribal member Tuwhakairiora O’Brien.

In the joint submission, the men say they oppose the application because “there will be significant impacts on cultural and environmental effects”.

“The Tarawera River is a place of historical and cultural significance to Ngati Awa and its repsective hapu. The historical relationship is embedded in legislation through a statutory acknowledgement contained within the Ngati Awa Claims Settlement Act.”

The submission explains it is their belief that Ngati Awa chief Iratumoana and his children formed the aquifer at Otakiri Springs.

“Iratumoana travelled from his pa Mahora, and when he arrived he recited a powerful karakia (prayer) and drove his toki (axe) into the ground, hence forming the Otakiri Springs.

“The full name of the area is called Otakiritanga o Te Toki o Iratumoana. The taniwha of the springs are Te Whakakauariki, Tupai and Irakewa. These taniwha protect the mauri of the spring. Otakiri spring is interconnected to all the other waterways forming one water source [that] provides spiritual wellbeing and physical sustenance.”

A submission on behalf of Nga Potiki a Tamapahore, signed by Arthur Flintoff, asks the regional council to decline the application because of the impact it will have on the hapu.

“The taking and removal of water from the region has an impact on the mauri of the water body and the hapu who are kaitiaki and tangata whenua of the region. The calibre of the activity requires appropriate time for all hapu to furnish comprehensive cultural impact assessments in order to identify cultural impact, potential remedies and appropriate mitigating strategies.”