An Auckland company hoping to set up an export water-bottling business at Whangarei's Poroti Springs says it may be willing to share its water rights with tangata whenua.
Zodiac Holdings was last month refused consent to double its take from the springs on grounds that included Maori cultural interests. It is appealing in the Environment Court against Northland Regional Council's decision.
The firm's director, Ian Thompson, says he's been thinking about a heartfelt statement by Poroti hapu at the hearing, that the consent would shut them out of rights to the water for another 30 years.
He says as a matter of principle Zodiac would consider offering the hapu access to water from the company's bore site, which could enable the hapu to eventually secure a water right in its own name.
Mr Thompson says the water-bottling venture would create jobs in the Poroti community, and he believes there's a sound basis for Zodiac Holdings and the hapu to co-operate.
A Poroti spokesperson Taipari Munro says the hapu has been talking to the company about what the springs mean to them and how they have no say in their use, and no rights themselves, to the water.
Mr Munro says there may be possibilities to work with Zodiac - but first there must be a genuine relationship between the hapu, and the company.
Whatitiri Maori Trustees will meet this weekend to consider their options, following talks with the company.
The Whatitiri hapu were given ownership of the Poroti Springs by the Maori Land Court in 1880, and their claim to the taonga is the basis of one of the freshwater claims now before the Waitangi Tribunal.