'Put New Zealanders first': Protestors take to Christchurch streets calling for end to local water being sold offshore

Thousands of people took to the streets in Christchurch today, calling on the government to put an end to water bottling.

They had a clear message for the company selling its water offshore.

"One, two, three, four. Keep Cloud Ocean out the door," they chanted.

Chinese owned Cloud Ocean is one of two operations granted permission by Environment Canterbury to take 1.7 billion litres of water each year - to bottle, and sell.

That consent process is currently being challenged in the courts - and on the streets.

"It's Christchurch water and it is for Christchurch people," said one protestor Newshub spoke to.

"Anyone thinks they can in there and just bottle it and sell it," said another.

With Cloud Ocean seeking permission to build a second factory, protest organiser Scott Esdaile says the reason for today's protest, is simple.

"The fact that we're basically being robbed of one of our natural resources," he said it was.

But that's the kind of rhetoric Environment Canterbury is warning against, releasing a statement urging people to "cut the crap and stick to the facts".

It says the Resource Management Act (RMA) ties its hands over granting these consents.

"The Government has determined nobody owns water so right now they cannot prohibit the sale of water for profit or export," it said.

But Mr Esdaile is not impressed.

"We want the government to stand up and change it and start putting New Zealanders first instead of putting overseas corporate companies before us," he said.

Environment Minister David Parker says the RMA is there to promote the sustainable management of resources and water bottling is an issue of fairness rather than sustainability.

The government is still looking at charging a royalty on bottled water but says the policy response isn't straightforward.