Commercial water bottling is becoming increasingly controversial (Image/Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Commercial water bottlers plead their case

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Water bottlers plead their case, concerns around cultural competency of overseas teachers, and govt. confirms it won’t restructure Māori Council.

It has become one of the most controversial points in the ongoing, and often furious, debate about foreign ownership of New Zealand resources. Commercial water bottling for export is often seen by the public as little better than theft, with the country being sold down the river with the loss of the substance essential for quality of life and the economy. But now water bottlers are speaking out, saying they’ve been misunderstood. It might not go down that well.

What is their case? It’s set out in this story on Stuff, which has looked into Chinese owned, and Canterbury based bottler Cloud Ocean Water. They got access to water consents when they bought a factory in Belfast, and have now made a $50 million investment they say will make them the third biggest customer of the Port of Lyttelton. They bottle more than a billion litres of water a year, and point out that it is a miniscule fraction of what gets used in, for example, dairying. They also say they’re creating jobs, boosting New Zealand’s image overseas, and can help build up a lucrative industry for the country.

You might have heard the name Cloud Ocean Water before. They were the subject of this story from Newshub, when they were pinged for drilling a bore despite warnings not to from the Christchurch Council. The Council have since opposed their plans to take water from a bore, with the latest news on that being that a QC will decide whether or not there will be public consultation on the plans, reports Stuff.

And regardless of whether the public are consulted, expect it to get very heated. It’s an issue that has sparked anger at both local and national level. It’s very real for people when they feel like it’s their community’s water being taken – that’s been the case in WhakatāneWhangarei and Ashburton. And on a national level, if you cast your mind back to the politics that fuelled the Keep Our Assets campaign against partial privatisations back at the start of the decade, you’ll probably remember that a large thread in those protests was that ‘Aotearoa is not for sale’. Those same impulses are a major undercurrent of water protests today.

But from an environmental perspective, isn’t bottled water obscene? It’s definitely not good. Have a read of this piece from The National, a news website based in the Middle East. The manufacture (and disposal) of the plastic alone is relatively resource-intensive, as well as the bottling and shipping of the water. But the environmental impact of a single bottle of water is actually less than a single bottle of soft drink. And there is a huge market for it worldwide, of which China is the biggest individual market. Most of the water that comes out of taps in China isn’t safe to drink.

It’s a terrible conundrum, and I don’t even politicians and councils that have to make decisions on it. So let’s help them out with some ideas. What’s the one thing you’d do to improve (or remove) water bottling as an industry? Email me – thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz – with that suggestion, and we’ll see if anyone has got a way forward.


Concerns have been raised that the hundreds of foreign teachers recruited in recent weeks won’t be culturally competent with Māori and Pasifika students, reports Stuff. Auckland principals in particular are worried, given the increasingly diverse populations in schools. Around 100 formal offers have been made to the cohort of foreign teachers so far, with the intention to have hundreds more be hired to cover the teacher number shortfall.


The government has confirmed that it won’t be restructuring the Māori Council, reports Māui Street. There had been significant reforms undertaken by the last government, which were halted after the Waitangi Tribunal found that the process breached Te Tiriti. The Māori Council has also become quite close to the coalition government, reports Māui St author Morgan Godfery, while the gulf between the government and the Iwi Chairs forum is widening.


MSD has been found to be spending millions more than was originally thought on contractors, reports Radio NZ. And a lot of government departments generally are spending millions in an area where costs can blow out quite quickly. The State Services Commission has been charged with cutting back the contractor spend.


The Law Society President is accusing Ministry of Justice staff of putting public safety at risk with their strikes, reports the NZ Herald. It comes after a brawl in a Christchurch court, which Kathryn Beck says could have been avoided if industrial action had not prevented AV systems being used, instead of bringing the defendant into court. On the other hand, a brawl in the courtroom rather underlines the dangers court staff face.


This is quite a cool looking invention, but it’s still a long way away from being rolled out, reports Newsroom. It’s basically a mini wind turbine, designed for use in cities with big wind funnels, like Wellington. The O-Wind Turbine has raised cautious optimism from local urban sustainability advocates, who say it could help big city buildings maintain energy supply from a renewable source.


Councils are going to examine the business case for a passenger rail service between Auckland and Hamilton, reports One News. The service is expected to start in the middle of 2020, to meet increasing commuter demand.


It’s a terribly sad day for the radio industry, with the news that Radio Live will effectively be shut down as a station. It is understood that Live will be merged with the music station Magic, with only a few talk shows staying on air. When these processes happen, the focus is often on the big names losing shows. But spare a thought for all the producers and behind the scenes people, who toil away so hard and may now be facing an uncertain future. Even though it has long been rumoured that this day was coming for Radio Live, it’s still rough to see.


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Rebecca Priestley having a read on the ice of Antarctica in 2014 (Photo: Cliff Atkins)

Right now on The Spinoff: Steff Green writes about the remarkable women of science who have left a mark on Antarctica. Jane Westaway hurls a new book about Sam Hunt and Colin Hogg getting drunk together directly into the sea. Hayden Donnell is exasperated by cycleway critics citing the costs, when, you know, roads are pretty expensive too. And I wrote an explainer about the latest in Brexit about 18 hours ago, and by now a whole lot of everything has changed, but you might enjoy reading it anyway.


The Larry Nasser story is one of the grimmest to have taken place in the sporting world in decades. The former US Gymnastics coach has been jailed for decades of sexual abuse against athletes in his care, amid silence and abdication of responsibility from his bosses. Glamour magazine has profiled the “army of women” who took him down, and it’s a really powerful read. Here’s an excerpt:

Denhollander was 16 by then. “We had the discussion: Do we take this to the police?” she says. “But I knew the reality of how sexual assault survivors are treated, and I knew my voice alone was never going to be enough. Larry was surrounded by very powerful institutions.” Denhollander testified that a year later she did tell someone. She’d gotten a job at a gym, and the coach was about to send one of the young gymnasts to Nassar. Denhollander described how she’d told the coach that the doctor had abused her (“I was quite explicit,” she told Glamour), yet the coach still referred the child. Denhollander was crushed, she said in court: “I couldn’t protect that little girl.”

But she never stopped thinking about her. She got her law degree, and in August 2016 saw an Indianapolis Star exposé of sex abuse among USAG coaches. Denhollander had always suspected there might be others like her, but she didn’t know how to find them; the press might help, and she thought they would want to know about Nassar. After contacting the reporters, she discovered the statute of limitations to file a criminal report had been extended. That’s when she called the police.


Tana Umaga’s troubled reign as Head Coach of the Blues has come to an end. But as the NZ Herald reports, he’s staying at Eden Park. Umaga will slot in as defensive coach under new head coach Leon MacDonald, who was initially signed by the franchise to be the attack and assistant coach for next season. Will it help? Maybe, Leon MacDonald has done pretty amazing things with the relatively lowly Tasman Mako in domestic rugby, taking them into the top 4 of the Premiership five years in a row.


From our partners, World Energy Day has put a spotlight on New Zealand’s sluggish progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Vector’s Beth Johnson explains why the time is right to accelerate.


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