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Ashburton pulls out of water deal

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 11/07/2016 Cleo Fraser

Ashburton District Council has pulled out of a controversial land deal which would allow the buyer to extract billions of litres of water from the local aquifer.

The authority had wanted to sell a 10-hectare site, part of the Ashburton Business Estate northeast of the town, to Chinese-controlled NZ Pure Blue which was interested in setting up a water-bottling plant.

About 40,000 people signed a petition against the deal which included consent for the company to extract about 40 billion litres of water over the next 30 years.

Opponents argued taking water from an area prone to drought was inappropriate, while others have said the plant would create 100 jobs and the amount of water amounted to a small fraction of the total used across the country.

Mayor Angus McKay said on Monday that the council had last week voted to cancel the sale.

That decision was the result of the interested buyer failing to meet a deadline to provide information about how they intended to run a water bottling plant from the site.

"In particular, we wanted confirmation that the plant would be using bottles not water bladders," Mr McKay said.

"This was important in relation to concerns raised by our community.

"The purchaser has not provided this information and it has given us enough cause for concern to cancel the Sale and Purchase Agreement."

Opponents of the sale, Bung the Bore, were celebrating on Monday.

"We are absolutely elated to hear of the Ashburton District Council's decision to abandon plans for a water bottling plant in our town," the group said on Facebook.

"This decision is testament to what can be achieved when communities band together to instigate change."

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