Supreme Court rejects water bottling consents for good

The decision comes after six years of court action

Supreme Court rejects water bottling consents for good

The Supreme Court has moved to reject the water bottling consents that were granted to Cloud Ocean Water Ltd and Southridge Holdings Ltd.

Environment Canterbury (ECan), the regional council for Canterbury, originally granted the consents to Cloud Ocean and Rapaki Natural Resources Ltd. This allowed water that had been allotted for a wool scour and freezing works to be used for water bottling.

This was done by granting new ‘use’ consents which were then combined with historical consents to ‘take and use’ water, thereby repurposing the water without returning it to the ‘pot’.

The Supreme Court disagreed with this approach and agreed with the Court of Appeal that the wording used by the Canterbury Land and Water plan actually meant that the ‘take’ and ‘use’ of groundwater were considered together and not separately.

It noted that the solution for the concerns raised by ECan regarding the difficulty that a consent holder might have if they wanted to repurpose the water in a fully allocated catchment was to surrender the take and use consent and to make a new one.

Aotearoa Water Action (AWA), an environmental advocacy group, supported the Supreme Court’s decision.

“While the Court’s decision may mean reduced flexibility for individual consent holders wanting to change the use of water it st[r]ikes a blow against the view that a water right may be treated as a private property right to water,” said Peter Richardson, the chair of AWA.

“Instead the Supreme Court’s decision emphasises that a take and use right is only a limited right to take water for a particular use that is authorised by the consent itself,” he added.

Richardson said that AWA would like the unused allocation to be returned to the pot and be reallocated to activities that would improve the wellbeing of the community and the environment, as long as sufficient water was available for safe allocation.

“What that looks like should be decided by communities,” said Richardson.

AWA noted that the Supreme Court decision did not address the question of whether the Council should have considered plastic production’s effects as it will be further discussed in another hearing.

The court decision followed six years of court action concerning commercial water bottling in Canterbury under the Resource Management Act.

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