Councils give Creswell NZ green light to increase water bottling capacity 1,825%

Creswell NZ now has consent to use 5,000 square meters of water a day or 58 litres a second. Photo: Getty Images

The Whakatāne District Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council gave Creswell New Zealand a green light to increase its water bottling capacity by 1,825 percent, a move that could create as many as 237 new jobs.

Creswell NZ, which is wholly owned by Chinese bottled water supplier Nongfu Spring Co, applied to buy freehold and leasehold interest in 6.2 hectares of land at Otakiri, near Whakatāne. Earlier this week the government granted overseas investment permission, contingent on water permits and other resource consents from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Whakatāne District Council.

The two councils said that - based on qualified expert evidence - "the actual and potential adverse effects of the applications are either demonstrably minor or can be suitably avoided, remedied or mitigated by the imposition of consent conditions."

Under the terms of the consent, Creswell can now upgrade its existing water bottling line from 8,000 bottles of water per hour to 10,000 and build two new high-speed bottling lines that will each produce 72,000 bottles per hour, a potential bottling capacity of 154,000 per hour.

It now has consent to use 5,000 square meters of water a day or 58 litres a second versus the current 1,358 square meters a day or 15.7 litres a second. The bottled water will be predominantly trucked to the Port of Tauranga with 184 truck movements to and from the site each day versus the current eight.

The councils said they received submissions from Māori groups but said they were not persuaded that the proposal to take water for water bottling purposes will have an adverse cultural effect of such significance that the applications should be declined.

The upgrade is expected to cost $42.5 million and will create 32 jobs in the first two years and 60 once the plant is fully operational. According to the councils, there will be flow-on effects as employees spend their wages and as Creswell buys goods and services required to support the water bottling operation such as road haulage operators and other service providers and the potential establishment of an inland container terminal in Kawerau.

Those flow-one effects are likely to create an additional 85 jobs with "potentially up to 237 FTEs in total attributable to the expanded operation," the councils said, adding that Kawerau and Te Teko are "among the most deprived places in New Zealand in a socio-economic sense" and it is undeniable that the additional direct and indirect employment resulting from the proposal would be highly beneficial in that context.

Among other things, the conditions of consent state that final site development, building and landscape construction plans must be submitted to the Whakatāne District Council, to certify that the works are in general accordance with the information submitted with the application. A final Road Upgrade Plan also need to be submitted to the Whakatāne District Council as does a staff travel plan.

It also indicated that in the event of any archaeological site or kiwi being uncovered during the earthworks, activities in the vicinity of the discovery will stop, and the consent holder will immediately inform Ngāti Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau, Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Rangitihi, Heritage New Zealand, the Whakatāne District Council and the police (where relevant) of the find.