Science will revel the truth about our water – HB Today Talking Point

The only thing that I find encouraging about the water bottling plants is your readers responses. The texts to the editor have been especially revealing. A common theme has been ‘when Lawrence Yule asks me to save water during the next dry spell, why should I? They’ve given away our water to China.’

Water5I think without realising it your readers recognise how important the issue of commons is. That the bottling plants are Chinese owned is in fact irrelevant. It has merely been a catalyst for people to start thinking about this issue.

Water of course belongs to no one, but at the same time it belongs to all of us. The Hawkes Bay Regional Council seems to have forgotten this truth. Where it has gone wrong is that they have hidden behind the piece of paper which is the RMA.

Water2Recent legal advise to HBRC claimed that there is no “legally defensible reason” for attempting to manage our water the way we want to. Interim CEO Liz Lambert stated that HBRC’s legal advisers “can’t see any evidence that the aquifer is being managed unsustainably”

I think we need to wonder exactly what questions were asked of the lawyers by HBRC when they sought this advice. It seems to me that council staff were going out of their way to find legal reasons not to support Councillor Bevin’s solution to our water issues. After all what expertise has Simpson Grierson got to claim our aquifer is not over allocated?

Water3We have a fairly robust discussion taking place about the Heretaunga Aquifer with the TANK Group. An attempt is being made to bring farmers, orchadists, industry, Maori, environmentalists and councils around the table to nut things out. The TANK Group has asked for more science on the Heretaunga Aquifer before they can draw any conclusions. That’s why it defies belief for HBRC, or their legal advisers, to say the aquifer isn’t over allocated. If the current science isn’t good enough for TANK why should it be good enough for us to have confidence in what HBRC is saying?

So HBRC rolled over and fell in line with the legal advice because there is a risk they may get sued at a future date. But I’m confused. At the same time we were being told not to worry about the risks of getting sued under the TPPA Investor State Dispute provisions. Why is it ok for one authority to not do something because of a risk of getting sued, yet another authority claims something to the contrary? One of them must be telling us porkies.

Water4Personally I think the solution to the overallocation of our aquifer is not in simply charging royalties but in strengthening the RMA. Consents should not be issued on a first come, first served basis. That we do not leave it up to the market to sort it out. And that the long term public interest is taken into account.

In Hawkes Bay water is a very topical issue. We shouldn’t baulk at having a robust discussion about it. But until we do we should give ourselves the opportunity to be able to say to users, go for it now but if the science is updated and shows the resource is over allocated we reserve the right to wind back your allocation. That’s all Peter Bevin was asking in attempting to buy us all some time. It was also the purpose of the petition signed by 974 citizens which was presented to HBRC. I believe it’s also what many readers of HB Today have been expressing.Water1

To my mind anyone who is granted a consent under these conditions and later sues HBRC is not working in the best interests of Hawkes Bay. They do not deserve our sympathy, they deserve our disdain. I doubt there will be many browned off lawns in Hawkes Bay this summer, rather browned off people who feel they have lost control of a resource that belongs to them. Why should they help the authorities with water bans, when the authorities don’t help them? As simple as that really.

Published 24/10/15

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