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Community boards want a stop to water bottling from Waiwhetu aquifer

Report from RNZ by Emma Hatton
Three Lower Hutt community boards will this week demand that the Wellington Regional Council stop all water bottling consents from the Waiwhetu aquifer.

There are two existing consents to draw almost 950 million litres a year from the Lower Hutt groundwater zone and a new consent is being considered to draw another 432m.

The aquifer supplies the Wellington region with 40 percent of its water.

More than 86 percent of the aquifer’s water has been allocated.

Petone Community Board chair Pam Hanna said it, along with the Wainuiomata and Eastbourne Boards, would ask the regional council and central government for a moratorium on the two consents and ask that all future consents be publicly notified – which they currently are not.

“We feel that the public needs to be involved in these decisions,” she said.

Ms Hanna said it was unclear what role the board could play in the regional council’s decision, but it needed to do something and hoped if the motions were passed it would leverage some influence.

“We’re working through it but what might happen is after the meeting, we forward the motion to all regional councillors and the chief executive and we’ll be working with the Hutt City Council chief executive to work out the best avenues to do this.”

The boards would hold their individual meetings in succession next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

“They will all possibly – hopefully – have passed this motion this week … I can’t imagine a majority voting against it,” Ms Hanna said.

“Petone itself has always been proud of having clean, pure water which we no longer have because it has had to be chlorinated and so for the Petone community the water is very important.”

The boards previously banded together to lobby the city council to declare a climate emergency – which it did.

She said at the meeting the board might also discuss working with the Upper Hutt City Council to lobby.

A consent to bottle 180 million litres of water a year in Upper Hutt has recently prompted resident Tracey Ultra to start a petition for it to be revoked. The consent went unnoticed for six years because it was not publicly notified.

The regional council has previously said it could only revoke existing consents if there was a concern the environment was being harmed.