Ngarewa-Packer bounces back: New bill seeks ban on selling of water

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has quickly rebounded from the defeat of her seabed mining ban bill, entering a new environmental member’s bill into the Ballot Tin.

The Resource Management (Prohibition on Extraction of Freshwater for On-selling) Amendment Bill would stop the sale of freshwater in what she says upholds the rangatiratanga of tangata whenua and protects freshwater aquifers and groundwater from commercial water bottling.

The bill will keep freshwater safe from pollution, contamination, and over-extraction. It achieves this by making the extraction of freshwater for the purpose of on-selling in a packaged form a prohibited activity.

“As I introduce this bill to protect our wai Māori (freshwater), my whanaunga in Whanganui are fighting to protect their awa from a plan to establish a water bottling plant to extract and sell 750,000 litres a week of groundwater from a bore near the Whanganui River,” Ngarewa-Packer said.

“Hapū, iwi and local communities have been resisting commercial water bottling consents for many years, including Ngā Hapū o Tūpoho, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Kahungungu, Ngāi Tūāhuriri and Ngāi Tahu."

Last month Ngāti Awa won the right to appeal a Chinese-owned water bottling plant's plans to expand its facility and fill nearly a billion bottles from an aquifer in Whakatāne every year.

“Protecting water quality and quantity in our aquifers and groundwater is important for public health. Around 40 per cent of people in Aotearoa rely on groundwater for their drinking water. Aquifers also feed wetlands, lowland rivers and lakes.

“Groundwater is a tāonga protected by Article 2 of the Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Tangata Whenua have proprietary, customary, and decision-making rights over freshwater - hapū and iwi were guaranteed ownership of and rangatiratanga over aquifers and groundwater resources. This bill would uphold their rangatiratanga," Ngarewa-Packer says.

Her attempt to ban seabed mining failed to get past the first reading in the House but that freed up space in the House for another bill to be drawn from the Ballot Tin.

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