The much-vaunted Waiwera water has finally come onto the market, but in a trickle rather than a gush.
Six years ago, Elaine Jones and Rob Knight bought the controversial 10 hectare farm, just west of Waiwera, which is home to a water production bore.
Former Waiwera Thermal Pools owner John St Clair Brown sunk the bore on the site around 2007 before selling to Waiwera Water co-directors, Mikhail Khimich and Leon Fingerhut.
Waiwera Water planned to build a state-of-the-art bottling plant on site but the plan was scuppered when neighbours objected. The fight went all the way to the Environment Court and the farm remained idle for many years afterwards.
“We were unaware of all this history when we drove by one day and noticed the place looking a bit overgrown and neglected,” Elaine says. “At the time, we were looking for a bit of land where I could keep my horses and a small flock of Wiltshire sheep. On a whim, we drove in and left our contact details with the residents, saying that if the owners ever wanted to sell then we’d love to hear from them.
“A little time later we got a call saying that if we were still interested in buying, the sale had to happen immediately. We were lead to believe that the property was about to be seized by the Overseas Investment Office.
“In a whirlwind 48 hours, which included doing due diligence, we found ourselves the new owners.”
Initially, the couple used the water for their own supply and the animals. They say they knew it was good water – historically, the water in the Waiwera region was known to Maori as Te Rata, which means ‘the doctor’.
“It’s naturally alkaline and studies show this can reduce acid reflux symptoms. It also has very low turbidity, which is a key test of water quality. But we really didn’t know what to do with it.”
Then last December, after seeing people struggling through some dry years, Elaine and Rob, along with their close friends Kerry and Neil, started a rural tank delivery service under the name Water by Nature.
The bore is 180-metres deep and the water has been carbon dated at more than 10,000 years old.
Rob says a flowing artesian aquifer (one that does not require a pump) is also quite rare.
“Waiwera Water had consent to take 73 million litres a day so we believe that’s what the bore can sustain. Council monitors both the volume of water being extracted and the pressure. The water is tested monthly for bacteria and a chemical analysis is done once a year.
“We’re keeping delivery local, operating one truck, with the number of truck movements a day limited by our consent.
“It really is beautiful, soft water and we’re glad we can now share it with others.”
Local carriers pick up baton on Three Waters
Two local water carrier representatives are spearheading a campaign to see their industry better represented in consultation on the Government’s Three Waters Reform Programme.
Water by Nature’s Elaine Jones and Solway’s Christine Walker believe that water carriers are at a disadvantage in the consultation process on the companion Water Services Bill for Safe Drinking Water because they don’t have an industry body.
Elaine says of the natural water carriers she had initially spoken to (those delivering an unchlorinated supply) who were most likely to be affected by the Bill, few were even aware of its existence and even fewer felt comfortable researching the details and making a submission.
“We only became aware of the potential impact of the Bill when a local resident forwarded a media article referencing Taumata Arowai’s intention to make it compulsory to chlorinate all water supplied to rainwater tanks,” she says.
Elaine says that while they support the setting up of a new regulatory body to oversee the Three Waters programme, the compulsory chlorination of water tanks was of major concern, as well as the associated compliance paperwork that would be required.
She went to Wellington last year to speak to her submission on the Drinking Water Services Bill and, along with Christine, has been in discussion with Taumata Arowai since.
“We are optimistic that we are getting traction and that our message that ‘one size’ does not fit all is getting through.”