A plan to extract millions of litres of water out of a Unesco world heritage site, send it by pipe to the coast and ship it to foreign markets for bottling has ignited a campaign over water resources in New Zealand.
An export company is proposing to collect 800m litres a month of the “untapped” glacial waters of Lake Greaney and Lake Minim Mere, mountainous dams that are fed by rainfall on the Southern Alps.
The pristine water, which the company Alpine Pure calls “untouched by man” would be pumped 20km downhill through an underground pipeline to a reservoir at Jackson Bay on the West Coast, where it would be processed.
From there, it would travel through a two-kilometre pipeline laid on the seafloor to a mooring, where 100,000-tonne tanker ships would be waiting to transport it in bulk to overseas markets in China, India and the Middle East.
The company already has permission to extract the water and is going through the process of getting resource consent from the Westland District Council for the pipeline.
Green groups are calling on the government to urgently step in and protect the nation’s freshwater springs and lakes, although Alpine Pure claims it is only taking a fraction of the water that falls as rain on the Southern Alps.
“We’ve had a lot of interest in this proposal from overseas companies, and a couple of times we’ve started chilling the champagne,” said Bruce Nisbet, managing director.
“Pristine water has been falling on the Southern Alps for a million years, and it would usually be wasted by flowing directly out to sea. The amount we want to take is very small.”
But the plan has angered environmentalists who warn New Zealand is giving away its most precious natural resource for free, at a time when domestic water supplies are increasingly subject to contamination scares.
Two weeks ago a petition signed by 15,000 people was delivered to parliament calling for an immediate halt to bottled water exports.
It comes amid growing…