Open letter to Christchurch residents about water

Much has been said in recent weeks on the activities of Cloud Ocean Limited, Environment Canterbury’s role in consenting water use, and protecting our water supply. I can assure you that Environment Canterbury is very aware of those responsibilities, and takes them very seriously.

An independent Commissioner, the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury and Cloud Ocean’s consultants all agree, based on evidence, that Cloud Ocean’s activities will not affect the city water supply, of which, about 75% of the current allocation is being used.

Regardless of people’s views, Environment Canterbury must work within the law as it stands, and some facts may be helpful.

The Resource Management Act allows consent for an activity (with conditions) unless it is specifically prohibited. Water bottling is not specifically prohibited. The key issue then is whether consent will create environmental impacts that are more than minor. In Cloud Ocean’s case, as above, there is broad agreement that its activities do not impact on the water supply. Of all the water used in Canterbury, Cloud Ocean’s take is the equivalent of two teaspoons in a ten-litre bucket.

Cloud Ocean is able to bottle water from an existing bore acquired when it purchased its current site and applied for new consents. The recent High Court decision does not change that. An independent Commissioner has granted Cloud Ocean consent to take water from a deeper bore. This does not mean it can take more water, as consents are capped. Only the City Council can apply for more water.

Anybody can apply for a resource consent, and the end use or destination of the resource are not grounds for refusal. Neither is nationality, race, ethnicity or foreign ownership. For the record, Cloud Ocean is a New Zealand-registered company with Chinese shareholding.

Environment Canterbury is very much aware of the importance of a sustainable and healthy water supply to our region’s environment, recreation, and economy, and our future generations. We must work within the law, and we alone cannot change it.

The Government is currently considering changes to the Resource Management Act, and I would encourage those who have strong views on the law that Environment Canterbury must abide by to make their voices heard as part of that review.