Community meets with water bottlers

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A FACE-TO-FACE meeting between the Otakiri community and Creswell NZ was “worthwhile” and is likely to occur again.

The meeting was arranged by Creswell NZ, the company looking to invest in and expand the Otakiri bottling plant, as a means of encouraging better relations and to engage with those who may still have concerns around the proposed expansion.

Around 15 people attended the meeting, said company spokesman Greg Fahey. They were a mix of neighbours with specific concerns, neighbours who were in support of the expansion and some people from the wider community.

“We found that some of the neighbours who wanted to speak with us; they had some specific, personal concerns that hadn’t been attended to as part of their wider group representation,” Mr Fahey said

“We will continue to engage with those people and get back to them on the things they raised.

“There were questions asked and we will need to get back to people on some of those.”

Mr Fahey said some of these individuals’ personal concerns had been “lost” in the wider residents’ action group of Sustainable Otakiri.

While some individuals had their concerns resolved, some of the wider community, including members of Sustainable Otakiri were not willing to “see the other side”.

“There will be more opportunities to engage with individual neighbours and Sustainable Otakiri,” he said.

There were questions around the automation of the plant and whether the promised 60 plus jobs were “real”, truck movements on Hallett Road and concerns around plastic.

Creswell NZ must guarantee the jobs as part of its deal with the Overseas Investment Office.

“We had discussions around us taking on more of a leadership role once the plant was up and running in regard to plastic,” Mr Fahey said.

“All of those things are very much a possibility.

“It was a good thing to do, and we are keen to do more of this type of thing. Legal processes can have people sitting in different corners, but we are in a situation now that we have this opportunity to meet with people and engage in a more meaningful way on opportunities down the track.”

Mr Fahey said as the upcoming High Court case against the bottling plant expansion could only be argued on legal grounds, the meeting was simply a goodwill gesture to meet neighbours who might have just moved to the area and others who might not have had a chance to have their say.

Despite written invitations only being delivered to immediate neighbours, Sustainable Otakiri chairwoman Maureen O’Kane posted a copy of the letter to Facebook and created a public event encouraging anyone with any concerns to attend the meeting.

“We wanted our community to come and have a chat with Creswell, they very kindly extended the invitation and we thought we could get that invitation out further to the wider community,” she said.

“I know some of the wider community, including those in Matata, wanted to have a chance to have their say.”

Ms O’Kane said she was really pleased with the number of supporters who turned out for the event but said the group did not have their concerns appeased by discussions.

“In our minds very little has changed, and it didn’t really make any difference to us,” she said.

She believes there is political motivation behind ensuring the bottling company goes ahead as a means to ensure there is demand for a planned container terminal at Kawerau.

Chance for council to take stance – Immink

THEhe upcoming High Court case involving Sustainable Otakiri, Te Runanga o Ngati Awa, Creswell NZ, Whakatane District Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council was discussed at the district council’s projects and services committee meeting on Wednesday.

Councillor Lesley Immink said she was unsure of the council’s role in the consent process for the bottling plant and in the court case.

She was informed by staff that the district council could only approve the above ground works while it was the regional council’s responsibility to approve the water take.

Above ground works include approving the physical expansion of the building as well as approving or limiting building heights, traffic, size, landscaping and hours of operation.

The council could have denied the application; however, staff said the political or moral implications were not in the council’s brief.

“This was our opportunity to have shown leadership,” said Ms Immink.

“Everyone is putting this issue of who owns water in the too hard basket and until someone shows courage no one will. This is our chance to take a political stance on behalf of our community.”

Mayor Judy Turner said the debate on who owned water and how much should be paid for it was one that was being held nationally.

Chairman Gerard van Beek said it would not be right to underestimate what other councils were doing in this space and that one district council he had heard of had already put a hold on any further water bottling applications.

The legal points that will be heard in court are: whether the court had scope to consider the end use of the water bottling; whether there was an error in determining the activity status as a rural processing activity rather than a non-complying industrial activity; whether there was an error in determining the activity was an expansion of an existing activity or a new activity; whether there was an error in concluding that the regional plan addressed water taking issues comprehensively and whether there was a failure to assess the application adequately.