NZ Pure Blue behind Ashburton water sale deal

A premises in the Ashburton Business Estate, where the Ashburton District Council is in the process of allowing a ...
WAYNNE WILLIAMS

A premises in the Ashburton Business Estate, where the Ashburton District Council is in the process of allowing a bottled water company to extract 40 billion litres of water.

The company involved with purchasing the right to extract 40 billion litres of pure, artesian water in Ashburton is NZ Pure Blue.

Stuff understands NZ Pure Blue, which is owned by a brokerage firm, is involved in the purchase of Lot 9 in the Ashburton Business Estate for an undisclosed sum. It comes with a valuable resource consent that allows abstraction of water from aquifers beneath the town.  

NZ Pure Blue, incorporated in July last year, is directed by Christchurch developer John Paynter and Roydon Hartnett, from Auckland. The company is owned by Walker Davey Limited, which is a business advisory firm. 

Ashburton mayor Angus McKay, right, with council chief executive Andrew Dalziel.
AUDREY MALONE/FAIRFAX NZ

Ashburton mayor Angus McKay, right, with council chief executive Andrew Dalziel.

The Ashburton District Council has refused to publicise information about the deal.

Both Paynter and Hartnett refused to comment when contacted by Stuff on Monday.

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When asked about the deal with NZ Pure Blue, Ashburton Mayor Angus McKay said negotiations were ongoing.

"We are not commenting because negotiations haven't finished.

"We haven't been paid for the section of land."

McKay said he would not comment further on the deal until they had finalised the deal.

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The sealed process follows a failed deal several years ago, in which the council tried to sell Lot 9 and its valuable water abstraction consent to a Chinese buyer.

The new deal allows the holder to take 45 litres of water a second, and expires in 2046, meaning the buyer will gain access to more than 40 billion litres of Ashburton's pure water. 

The proposal has outraged some residents, who say water is desperately needed locally.

District councillor Ken Cutforth broke ranks and said the council should think twice about the sale because people will not "be thanking us in 30 years time . . . for allowing people to almost suck water out with impunity".

Green Party water spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said the council's deal was "outrageous" and she was concerned regardless of which company was involved.

"It doesn't really change our concerns at all that they are a Christchurch company because they are still taking that water and proposing to export it without any proper process for the Ashburton community.

"They are allowed to do that because [Environment Canterbury] and Ashburton District Council are not making sure that people are given a democratic say over this. It's still a major concern whoever owns the company that water is being taken and it's basically going offshore without the community having a say so our concerns remain."

Jen Branje, the Ashburton resident who has led opposition to the deal, said knowing the company's name did not clarify who would be extracting Ashburton's water and where it would go.

"It's worse that a New Zealand company's involved, because it's Cantabrians selling out Canterbury," she said.

"I don't think it is what it appears to be. But the issue for me has always been about the water, regardless of who the buyer was."

Environment Canterbury consents planning manager Tania Harris said the consent, which was approved in 2011, required the Ashburton council to "recharge" the groundwater aquifers, in this case using water from a water race.

Under the dual-consent arrangement, 60 litres per second of water would go into the groundwater aquifer to "offset" the taking of 45 litres per second, she said.

"To put the amount in perspective, 45 litres per second would efficiently irrigate a 90ha dairy farm with about 325 cows. The average farm size in Ashburton has about 891 cows," she said.

 - Stuff

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