Public may have say in controversial Chinese water bottling company's Christchurch operation

Opponents of a water bottling company and the way its obtained permission to extract water in Christchurch, are pleased the public may get a chance to have a say in an upcoming decision relating to water take.

Environment Canterbury (ECAN) today appointed an independent hearing commissioner Richard Fowler QC, to handle Cloud Ocean Water's application to use a 186 metre deep bore at its plant north of Christchurch.

The company plans to export 1.5 billion litres of water each year, and is already bottling and exporting water from a shallower bore at the plant. It now wants access to the deeper bore.

Fowler has less than 3 weeks to decide if the latest application is publicly notified, where anyone can offer an opinion; limited notified, when only people considered to be adversely affected can have their say; or non-notified, when the impact is deemed to be no more than minor.

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The company has plans to bottle more than a billion litres of water from Otakiri Springs annually. Source: 1 NEWS

Campaign group Aotearoa Water Action (AWA) is taking legal action against the firm and ECan over whether they should be allowed to rely on old resource consents to now bottle water. A decision is due soon.

Spokesman Peter Richardson was happy with today's appointment, saying he hoped his group and the public would be able to have input into the final decision.

But he believes ECan has a fundamental conflict of interest, because they could be sued by Cloud Ocean for advice given by ECan staff before the company set up its bottling plant, if Cloud Ocean is unable to obtain the consents it needs for its operation.

All along, he said, they had been pushing for ECan to follow proper processes.

By Justine Andrews

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The water destined for the Chinese market claims to come from 200m underground, but Cloud Ocean Water only have consent to take from a 33m-deep bore. Source: 1 NEWS