Court decision favouring Chinese water bottler challenged

A Whakatane iwi and an environmental group are appealing a court decision allowing China's largest water bottler to take more than a billion litres of groundwater a year.

Creswell NZ, a subsidiary of Nongfu Spring, received resource consent to expand its Otakiri Springs plant southwest of Edgecumbe about 18 months ago.

The Environment Court declined an appeal to overturn the consents in a two to one majority last month, and Ngāti Awa is now taking an appeal to the High Court alongside environmental group Sustainable Otakiri.

Creswell's consent allows it to increase its bottling capacity by almost four times to 5000 cubic metres a day.

Ngāti Awa chief executive Leonie Simpson said it's extremely concerned about the effects of the extra bottling on the Awati Aquifer, which is in the iwi's rohe.

"As kaitiaki and tangata whenua we must be included in decisions about our taonga and on issues that affect us in our rohe," she said in a statement.

Sustainable Otakiri chair Maureen O'Kane said our purest and cleanest water should be reserved for New Zealand.

"That is the water that these major companies are going after and that's the water that is making New Zealand a plastic creation nation. We will be renowned for this if we keep heading down this path. It's just too much and our government is doing too little."

Creswell NZ said in a statement last month the Environment Court decision was the right one and would deliver much-needed benefits to the community, particularly new jobs for locals.

The company also played down concerns from Environment Commissioner David Kernohan, who was the dissenting voice in the court's decision, that the extra bottling would lead to more single-use plastics being produced.

"We're actually at the forefront of global research and development of solutions to distributing water without plastic," said the company's managing director Michael Gleissner.

Gleissner said the company had been advocating for a comprehensive recycling scheme in New Zealand for several years and reducing waste remained a key focus for the company.

"We use recycled PET in New Zealand and advances in technology means the average weight of resins in our bottles has reduced by nearly 50 percent since 2000," he said.