Supreme Court keeps the door open for Ngāti Awa challenge against Chinese water bottling giant

Supreme Court keeps the door open for Ngāti Awa challenge against Chinese water bottling giant

In a landmark initial judgment, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Ngāti Awa’s appeal challenging proposal by Creswell New Zealand Limited (Creswell), a subsidiary of Chinese soft drinks giant Nongfu Spring, to extract 1.1 billion litres of water annually from the Awaiti Canal Aquifer in Otakiri, largely for export to Asia.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, the post settlement governance entity for Ngāti Awa, hailed the recent decision as a positive step in the right direction to ensure that the iwi concerns about this proposal are heard by the highest Court in the land.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa Chief Executive Reuben Araroa said: “Ngati Awa are delighted that the Supreme Court has granted to us leave to appeal. This provides us with a clear path to challenge all matters we are concerned with to the Supreme Court and marks significant progress for Te Runanga o Ngati Awa who have been fighting this unjust proposal to bottle and export our most precious wai.

Ngāti Awa have been involved in a long legal battle to oppose the Creswell proposal to take and export in plastic bottles the pristine spring water from Otakiri saying that it would have irrevocable and negative effects on te mauri o te wai – the spiritual life force of the water.

The Creswell proposal also included plans to develop a manufacturing plant on site in Otakiri with the capacity to produce 1,800 single use plastic bottles per minute. The expansion of the site and the creation of millions of single use plastic bottles was opposed by community and environmental groups concerned about the impact on the environment and an inability to manage the end-use of the plastic bottles which would largely have been exported.

Mr Araroa said Ngāti Awa, as kaitiaki of this rohe, has an obligation to ensure our water and what happens to it align with our cultural and environmental values.

“I believe most New Zealanders agree with this stance given the very present and clear impacts of climate change. This is about representing and protecting the long-term future prosperity of our people and our communities.”

The Court will likely hear the appeals in full towards the end of 2023.