AOTEAROA WATER ACTION UPDATE
- Peter Richardson
AWA continues to advocate for clean, affordable and abundant water, for the mana and mauri of the wai, and for community sovereignty in the management of water resources. We have been active recently in a number of areas where we believe these natural and human rights are under threat.
AWA has appealed the High Court decision upholding Environment Canterbury's decision to grant consents to two Chinese-owned bottling companies to take millions of litres per day from Christchurch's deepest aquifers. We believe the process by which these consents were granted was illegal, and opens the door to the plundering of our water resources by the water bottling industry, putting at risk our future water security and undermining cultural and community rights in water.
AWA will also be arguing that ECan should have had regard to the end use production of billions of plastic bottles, an argument with which the High Court was reluctant to engage, but with which we think the Court of Appeal may be more comfortable. Christchurch runaka Ngai Tuahuriri has been granted intervener status in the Court of Appeal proceedings and will also address the Court on the culturally adverse effects of water bottling. The Court of Appeal heard our case in August. AWA is undertaking a further (hopefully final) round of fundraising to ensure we are able to cover our costs in the Court of Appeal. Any donations can be made directly to our bank account, details of which are on our website.
Three Waters Reforms
AWA has maintained a watching brief and has filed submissions on the Government's proposed Three Waters reforms, particularly those relating to the delivery of drinking water. We have considerable concerns over the thrust of those reforms, particularly around centralisation of delivery, the pressure on Councils to transfer infrastructure assets to the proposed centralised regional bodies, and the "one size fits all" rules around the quality and aesthetics of water supplied.
While there is an expectation that communities will be supplied with clean drinking water, in AWA's view better protection at source (particularly against intrusions by stock) and the provision of adequate funding where necessary, are generally sufficient measures to address any perceived problems, without resorting to what increasingly appears to be a power grab for the benefit of corporate water lobbyists and a nascent uber-bureaucracy. It is telling that a number of councils are now voicing their concerns at the lack of transparency or inclusiveness in the process of development of the reforms, with Whangarei District Council recently announcing it was withdrawing from the process until its concerns were resolved.
The recent "Danish Report" by Prof Jorg Schuellehner was received with much concern in rural areas and in cities lying close to those rural areas which have seen vast increases in nitrate leaching to groundwater. That report indicated increases in incidence of bowel cancer at levels of nitrate-nitrogen in water many times below the Minimum Allowable Value of 11.3mg/L as set in the New Zealand Drinking Water Standards.
In Canterbury recently, three large-scale irrigation consents (mainly employed in intensive dairying) have recently been rolled over or are about to be rolled over, for a further period of ten years. AWA was involved in public meetings and a rally in Christchurch to express community concern at the rolling over of those consents, and the resulting dangers to public health and the ecological health of our waterways and aquifers.
However, we have also attempted to engage directly with the farming community to try to assist a transition towards new, regenerative land uses, and away from reliance on chemical fertilisers, and destructive monocultures. A recent meeting between representatives of a number of community, environmental, and fishing groups, and farmer/shareholders of the MHV (Mayfield Hinds Valetta) irrigation scheme was a first step in that direction.
Promoting Shared Shift In Consciousness
This approach is not seen as an alternative to, but supplementary to other forms of action including legal, political and advocacy action. Ultimately, we believe that only a shared shift in consciousness towards a more holistic and healthy understanding of relationship with our water, land and air, will lead to the lasting changes that we need to survive as a healthy species. We continue to promote that shift using all the tools at our disposal. AWA's vision for the future of our wai can be found in our water charter.