A 15,000 strong petition that calls on the government to place a moratorium on freshwater exports is being presented to parliament today. At the same time, thousands of New Zealanders will rally outside local councils nationwide to demand that public access to clean safe water is put first.
Founder of Bung the Bore, the group behind the petition and the rallies, Jen Branje says today’s action is about putting people and the environment above the demands of private interests to exploit New Zealand’s freshwater.
“In many parts of our country people are struggling to access clean safe water, yet at the same time billions of litres are being given away to private companies for nothing.”
Currently there are 74 bottling plants across the country with permits to take New Zealand’s most pure fresh water to bottle and sell overseas, with more consents awaiting approval.
“These bottling companies pay as little as $500 to local councils to take billions of litres of this precious resource and consent for this exploitation is often given with no public consultation at all.”
Mrs Branje first became aware of how much fresh water was being given away when her local Ashburton District Council started making deals to sell the right to extract 40 billion litres of artesian water to a bottled water company.
“The residents of our town were on water restrictions and our council was going behind their backs to sell off the district’s most pure water. We stood up and said this is not right.”
The Lot-9 deal, as it was known, was shut down by pressure from the public and the work of Bung the Bore.
“We were getting messages from people around the country telling us this was happening in their communities too. So we’ve come to parliament to demand that it stops until there is acceptable legislation in place to make sure that people and their environment are protected over private profiteering.”
The petition will be presented to Labour Water Spokesperson, David Parker, at midday today on the steps of parliament.
The presentation will coincide with ‘Save Our Water’ rallies at 21 local councils from Invercargill to Whangarei. Each rally has been organised by a local resident.
Auckland rally organiser Sherrick Hulme says his involvement was inspired by “ensuring that our children and their children and their children’s children have adequate resources to sustain themselves”.
The pollution of rivers and lakes also weighs heavily on the minds of the organisers and will be raised at the rallies. Wairarapa organiser Dave Field said that it has been painful to watch eels and fish die in local waterways due to pollution.
“I also want to take my moko’s for a swim and learn how to swim and enjoy the river safely but I can’t because it is too dirty.”