Tim Walker’s Bottled II

It’s a polarising query: is New Zealand’s fresh water resource genuinely depleted, or is it still as abundant as many believe it to be?

One need only to be present on the West of the South to witness the monumental waste of water that takes place there during a Canterbury Plains nor’ wester; millions of litres of clean, fresh, drinkable rainwater drench the Coast and its nearby hillsides, only to then succumb to gravity’s compelling dictatorship, resulting in the overfilling of rivers and the swelling of streams, the swamping, breaching, the inundation of otherwise subdued waterways, before those millions of litres of fresh, clean and very drinkable water, in a race largely uncontested, are lost to the ocean, never again to be seen in desalinated form…

Auckland Super City’s most recent crisis (all other Auckland crises notwithstanding) is regarding a shortage of clean water, after the largest rainfall in decades overwhelmed the city’s filtration system, overflowing and blocking it with mud and silt deposits, thus precluding Auckland’s ability to generate the usual quantity of potable water for its many humble residents.

…Surrounding the nation’s fresh water issues it is typically our farmers who end up wearing the ‘villain’ tag; either their livestock are polluting existing waterways or, in an effort to keep the land productive to ensure those stock continue to thrive thereby upholding a large part of the New Zealand economy, they are depleting the water table through excess irrigation…

This Auckland predicament has (among other things) raised the question: Is the country losing its valued fresh water resource? Going hand in hand with that query, as one might expect, is renewed speculation regarding the concept of yesteryear, of ‘Kiwi water export’; unsurprisingly, given protesters’ supposed detestation of anything that is beneficial to either progress or finances, and given further that somebody stands to profit from the aforementioned prospective deal, the ‘Kiwi water export’ notion is again being feverishly condemned by lobbyists.

…Alas when it comes to this topic I am aware I am guilty of repetition, but for some reason it just annoys me to the point of exasperation, and I therefore feel it must be (again) said: in New Zealand we have a number of self-appointed, self-righteous ecologists who despite spending a lifetime as Auckland citizens hence having never actually experienced rural life thus with no actual knowledge of what goes on in the real world let alone knowledge of how a farm is operated or indeed what exactly is required to run said farm, feel it is within the self-appointed-ecologist-skill-set to then claim to know exactly what farmers are doing wrong and certainly what they must immediately do to rectify that wrongdoing…

Originally this ‘water export’ initiative was an Ashburton dream where, as documented in the first ‘Bottled’, a fully operational water bottling plant could have employed hundreds of Ashburton locals and injected potentially millions of dollars into the economy of this Mid Canterbury township yet, again as documented, it came down to more of an ownership issue; officially, at least according to what the nation’s protesters were ranting, essentially it was townsfolk water and the townsfolk didn’t want someone else having it.

…I think the reason this particular water issue exasperates me so is largely because I cannot abide wastefulness of any variety; the fact that these (all too often) Northern eco-warriors (usually) acting on behalf of the South and (invariably) by implication the entire nation, would rather stand by as billions of cubic metres of clean, fresh, very much drinkable water – that’s a Rangitata, a Waimakariri, and a Hurunui summer combined – flows its moist and merry journey eastward to reach the coast and cascade out its respective river mouth where it will then ever-so-minutely dilute the vast body of water that is the world’s salt-infused ocean, than to see southern farmers, often stricken by summer drought, tap into that bountiful water table, to harness its valuable wetness and to distribute it over the land – or, as in this case, to bottle that water for export – sending it over instead of into the ocean, to perhaps make some money from its world-renowned crystal-clarity rather than sitting idly by in your self-righteous-self-appointed-self-important-ecologist chair and watching it dissipate amid trillions more cubic metres of unequivocally undrinkable water because the instant that fresh water reaches the ocean, it’s no good to any person…

On the matter of bottling water for distribution, also profit, Prime Minister Bill English was heard to say, “Well, of course, it would come down to a matter of ownership, wouldn’t it – who owns the water?” (Regarding which, if recent Treaty negotiations are anything to go by, he should know the answer to that one, but if not, here’s a clue for you Billy-boy – it is not the Government but nor is it strictly the Opposition.) Therefore if bottling for distribution does take place, these ‘owners’ of New Zealand water will assuredly expect recompense for their efforts; meantime Fiji locals have had no problem bottling and distributing their water – they don’t even expect a profit and while Kiwi water might be ‘pristine’, theirs is ‘miracle water’.

…I chuckled when I read the closing line of the original ‘Bottled’; of course it was in reference to all that pristine Kiwi water that farmers are frequently being vilified for spraying over the land, despite its apparent excess and which, despite also New Zealand’s apparent abhorrence of intolerance, is still too good for the stomachs of foreigners.

‘Best let it go back in the ocean where it belongs, eh.’



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Owen T Waters

Photography by Sal D Waters


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