Last Friday night, there was a meeting of more than 300 people about the risk of increased water takes for farming in the catchment upstream of the magnificent Te Waikoropupu Springs (‘Pupu Springs’) in Golden Bay. The aquifer that feeds the springs could experience lower water flows and more nitrates if Tasman District Council change the rules to allow this to happen.
Hall filling up for Waikoropupu Springs in Takaka pic.twitter.com/2Ju6byvAwP
— Catherine Delahunty (@greencatherine) March 10, 2017
In a lively debate, local residents challenged the collaborative group working with Council on this issue and on their claim to represent the community. I was there to learn more but also to support a strong precautionary approach to any changes that could affect this waahi tapu. I also gave out some copies of my Member’s Bill on creating stronger protection for aquifers under the RMA.
The collaborative group is modelled on the Land and Water Forum. We heard from the group members their view that the district needs better rules that allow for restrictions on irrigation if required. That is clearly needed, but the proposal to allow more water takes for dairy farming is where the debate sharpens. There is disagreement about the risk of increasing nitrates on the delicate and unique springs. Crucially, the groundwater scientist present for Council did concede that no one actually knows what is really going on in the aquifer.
The collaborative group of local people (including someone who is a Sustainability Manager for Fonterra) all said that they value the springs but, as happens with these processes, they are trying to craft a compromise. Sometimes that is not the right thing to do.
In Takaka 300 ppl have turned out to hear about plans to take & pollute Te Waikoropupu springs for more dairy cows pic.twitter.com/ucAX9fHkm0
— Genevieve Toop (@Gen_toop) March 10, 2017
The tangata whenua, Ngāti Tama, have applied for a Water Conservation Order to protect the Springs, which may get through the national process. But the reliance on these supposedly representative but unaccountable groups, whose recommendations can still be ignored by political decision makers, is no way to protect waahi tapu. If we do not know what is happening in the aquifer feeding Waikorupupu Springs, lets act from a precautionary base and restrict more water takes. We need to love and protect aquifers and waahi tapu!