The HBRC’s recent approval of resource consents for the water bottling plants in Whakatu and Awatoto raises a number of questions which we deserve to have answered. For example just how confident are HBRC that approval of these consents will not over allocate the aquifers the water is to be drawn from?
Before formulating Plan Change 6 HBRC facilitated a group where all parties got together to nut out some solutions to the state of the Tukituki River and associated aquifers that were acceptable to all. There was never consensus from this group which has lead us to the long drawn out legal process we are in the middle of at present.
Exactly the same process is being used by a group called the TANK Group. (TANK stands for Tutaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro, Karamu). This is because a further plan change will be required to manage these catchments. You would have thought that approval of such a large draw down from our aquifers would have been delayed until issue of water allocation is resolved locally. All that HBRC is doing by pre-empting the results from the TANK Group is picking a fight with current users of the aquifers associated with these catchments, something none of us need.
I would also argue that HBRC does not know enough about the aquifers from where the water will be drawn to be able to determine any effects on those aquifers with any level of confidence. Whilst there have been many studies undertaken about the aquifers which have increased our knowledge of issues such as recharge rates I remain unconvinced that we know enough to be rush in an make long term decisions over such large allocations.
The issue of over allocation is of course what damned the Tukituki River to its current state. The issue of over allocation is what lead too three HBRC councillors being dumped at the last election.
Unfortunately the decision to approve consents rests with nameless unelected bureaucrats whom our elected representatives seem to have little control over. I acknowledge that they are only interpreting the RMA as they see fit, however there comes a point where the decision approaches a very grey area. Ask yourself, do you consider the effects of the water bottling plants will have on our aquifers to be more than minor? Personally I think not.