Hawke's Bay water bottling plant lies dormant for four months

Miracle Water in Hastings has not extracted water for four months.
MARTY SHARPE/ FAIRFAX NZ

Miracle Water in Hastings has not extracted water for four months.

A large water bottling plant in Hawke's Bay has not extracted groundwater for four months because it is yet to find a packaging that is suitable for the Chinese market.

Miracle Water, near Hastings, sent its first shipment of drinking water to China in late 2015. The water was rejected and returned to New Zealand as it was found to contain nitrite levels too high for the local market.

But it is not the mineral make-up of the water that has stopped exports, it's the packaging.

Miracle Water director Trevor Taylor said the company had been dealing with issues over how the water was packaged when exported to China. It is exported in seven litre bladders, not PET bottles, but "it was not easy" finding packaging that was suitable.

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The company opened its $20 million plant in October, 2015, and is consented to take 900,000cum from the Heretaunga aquifer per year.

Taylor would not elaborate on what the "issue" was, other than to say it was something to do with the packaging.

"We're using a company overseas for the research and development. They're having to do trials to get it right. That's why there's been no water taken," he said.

Taylor said a small amount of water had been exported prior to the issue arising and he hoped production would be back on track "in about six months if we're lucky".

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Water bottling has become a highly contentious issue in Hawke's Bay following the Campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North last winter. Recent dry conditions have seen ground water issues reach record lows for this time of year and have further heightened the issue.

Taylor said the amount of water taken by water bottling plants was "a tiny fraction" of that used by irrigators, and he felt companies like his were coming in for unfair criticism.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council spokesman Drew Broadley said the aquifer level on the Heretaunga Plains was lower than normal due to lower than usual winter recharge after a drier winter and continuing lack of rainfall.

"We will not speculate on whether consents should or should not be granted," Broadley said.

He said there were eleven consented water bottling takes, of which six have yet to be exercised.

"Of the remaining five, four have had some form of take since November 1, 2016. The cumulative total take for all water bottling consents since November 1 is 3,040cubic metres. By comparison one consent for irrigation for an orchard operation (with six wells) on the Heretaunga Plains has used 75,738cum since November 1, 2016," he said.

"Another significant irrigation consent has used 123,381 m3 since 1 November 2016," Broadley said.

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 - Stuff

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