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Water Bottling

As the region’s environmental agency, the regional council plays a key role in promoting sustainable, long-term water management. We are aware there is some concern about water bottling plants operating in our region, so this page is to answer some frequently asked questions.

What's the story about water bottling in Hawke's Bay?

There continues to be plenty of discussion around the management of water in Hawke’s Bay. That’s not surprising, it’s our most precious resource. As the region’s environmental agency, the regional council plays a key role in promoting sustainable, long-term water management.

Some key things to know

• There is no more water to be allocated in the Heretaunga Plains for any use so we are extremely unlikely to have any more applications for water bottling
• There are currently 11 consents for water bottling, but only five are active
• Water consented for bottling accounts for less than 0.12% of the the Heretaunga Aquifer resource

How many litres of water is taken and approved for water bottling in Hawke’s Bay?

Water bottling makes up 2.5% of the total amount of water consents in the region. Meanwhile water consent for bottling accounts for less than 0.12% of the Heretaunga Aquifer Resource.

Around 28,000 cubic metres of water was taken for water bottling in the second half of 2019, that’s on average about 1.2% of the annual total the consent holders are allowed to take.

How do consents for taking water work?

No-one who holds a resource consent is charged for water, whether they’re a New Zealand resident or a foreign investor. However, we do charge for the work Council does to process resource consent applications and we charge consent holders 35% of the costs we incur to monitor the effect on the environment of their resource use. New Zealand law does not allow regional councils to charge for water. Even if we could charge, we’d need to be careful how we did so, because there are some potential unintended consequences associated with charging regimes. For example, our city and district councils might need to pay for water used by our towns. It could potentially increase local council rates. Industries using water (Watties and irrigators for example) might need to pay for water.

The length of a water take consent varies from consent to consent depending on a range of factors, including where it is.

In June 2020 the Regional Council approved a policy that requires any new water bottling consent to be publicly notified, and that staff have discretion to consider whether or not a consent based on an existing water take should be publicly notified.

At the same time the Council clarified that the definition of water bottling is where the water content of the container is more than 99%.

Do inactive consents expire?

There are a few mechanisms in the RMA to deal with inactive consents or ones with a relatively small amount of use. They can lapse if not exercised prior to the lapse date specified on the consent. This is typically five years. A consent can also be cancelled if it had been used but then not used again for five years or more. A consent holder can apply to extend the dates.

What is the water quality like in our aquifers?

The water quality in our main Hawke’s Bay aquifers is generally very good and meets NZ Drinking Water Standards.

You can read more about our Aquifers here

Does the Regional Council choose what the water is used for?

No. Resource consents for taking groundwater are decided by Council on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Each consent application is assessed carefully to ensure the amount applied for fits within any limits in place. We also make sure consent applicants receive only what they actually need, that they are efficient in using it, that they are not affecting neighbouring bores and if the take will impact nearby rivers, lakes or wetlands.

There are pros and cons to the ‘first come-first served’ approach. One good thing is that Council is not picking ‘winners’ – it is left to the market to decide what is the most productive use of water. However, as a result, communities may feel they are not in control of water management.

Do bottling plants get water in preference to irrigators?

No they don't. The rules around water allocation and use in each groundwater zone apply to all resource consent holders taking groundwater from that zone, irrespective of the industry involved.

The Regional Council manages the 14 zones of the Heretaunga Plains aquifer in different ways. In some zones all groundwater takes are banned when the takes begin to affect nearby rivers, lakes or wetlands. When this happens, every consent holder is banned, no matter what they’re using the water for.

Groundwater takes in other aquifer zones do not affect rivers, so the Regional Council doesn’t ban those takes when river flows drop.

How does the Regional Council know the groundwater takes don’t affect rivers?

We monitor groundwater levels and quality on the Heretaunga Plains. Seasonal water levels in the Napier/Meeanee groundwater zone where bottling is occurring have remained similar for about 150 years. This indicates the aquifer is not being over exploited.

In early 2020 we are carrying out an important project to find out more about our groundwater system by using the latest airborne electromagnetic survey technology (SkyTEM). This will give us a look at our aquifers, deep underground where we’ve never seen before.

Find out about the 3D Aquifer mapping project here.

Any questions?

We want you to be fully informed so if there is anything about water bottling we haven't tackled here, please let us know. We would love to hear from you.

Ask us a question here


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