17 May 2017

Water campaigner on export decision: 'It's just plainly not fair'

12:34 pm on 17 May 2017

A water rights campaigner is devastated by the news that a major West Coast water export project has been approved.

Mt Aspiring

Okuru Enterprises' project will involve redirecting 800 litres a second from Tuning Fork Creek, near Mt Aspiring National Park (pictured) Photo: 123rf.com

The West Coast Regional Council has granted Okuru Enterprises the final permits it needed to build a pipeline and water tank farm at Neils Beach at Jackson Bay south of Haast.

The consents are renewals of permits first given 25 years ago and were granted without public notification.

Okuru Enterprise wants to set up the water exporting facility to take water from two alpine lakes and pipe it to tankers for export.

The project involves redirecting up to 800 litres a second from Tuning Fork Creek to an export facility at Neils Beach in Jackson Bay.

The creek flows off the back of Mt Aspiring National Park. There are about 100 glaciers in the region, with the three largest flanking the mountain, according to the Department of Conservation.

Decision process undemocratic - Bung the Bore

Jen Branje addresses protesters

Jen Branje addressing water protesters on Ashburton. Photo: RNZ / Belinda McCammon

The founder of Bung the Bore, Jen Branje, said the whole process had been undemocratic and locals close to the development were very upset.

Mrs Branje said the only avenue for those opposed to the project was to go to the Environment Court for a judicial review, which would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

None of the detractors were in a position to do that, she said.

"This is where we think it's just plainly not fair.

"Unless you've got a hell of a lot of money in the bank or are prepared to sell your assets to fight these sorts of decisions, you just have to wear them."

Mrs Branje, who successfully led a protest against water sales in Ashburton, said the company should not be able to send precious glacial water overseas and earlier this year presented a 15,000-strong petition calling for stronger regulation.

The Green Party said the public had been shut out from the approval process.

Its environment spokesperson, Eugenie Sage, said it was outrageous that an area that many New Zealanders care about would be ruined without anyone getting a say.

The area had sensitive habitats for Hectors' Dolphins, penguins and Haast kiwi and the council had not properly considered the risks, she said.

The regional council said it was confident it had done so, though.

The chair of the group behind the project, Peter Roselli, would not comment.

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