Rally seeks public access to clean water

Attending a rally outside the Otago Regional Council head office in Dunedin yesterday...
Attending a rally outside the Otago Regional Council head office in Dunedin yesterday highlighting Otago freshwater issues are (from left) Rosemary Penwarden, Sue Maturin and Tony Culling. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Many Otago regional councillors, as well as the council's chairman and chief executive, were present at a rally organised by the New Zealand Water Forum outside the council's head office yesterday.

The rally, attended by about 40 people, was one of a series held throughout the country, which coincided with a 15,000 strong petition being presented to Parliament in Wellington.

Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said Otago enjoyed "good water quality in most of our waterways and we want to keep it that way''.

The petition called on the Government to place a moratorium on the export of fresh water, and the rallies urged local councils to give priority to public access to clean water.

Jen Brantje, founder of the Bung the Bore movement which organised the petition, handed it over to Labour MP David Parker on the steps of Parliament.

"Currently, there are 74 bottling plants across the country with permits to take New Zealand's most pure fresh water to bottle and sell overseas,'' she said.

"In many parts of our country people are struggling to access clean, safe water, yet at the same time billions of litres are being given away to private companies for nothing.''

Mr Parker told Ms Branje as he accepted her petition that she had done something very good for her country.

"You are making fresh water an election issue this year,'' he said.

The Government later rejected calls for a moratorium, saying the amount was so tiny it would not make sense.

At question time in Parliament, Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty asked Environment Minister Nick Smith whether he would impose a moratorium.

"No. Bottled water exports last year totalled nine million litres of New Zealand's annual water resource of 500 trillion litres,'' Dr Smith said.

"A moratorium on bottled water exports to address water shortages makes about as much sense as a moratorium on tricycles to solve New Zealand's traffic problems.''

- Additional reporting NZN

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