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Ashburton water opponents vow to fight on

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 11/07/2016 Cleo Fraser

A group opposed to a controversial water extraction deal in Ashburton are happy it's been canned, but say their fight isn't over yet.

The local council said they had decided to axe the proposed sale of a 10-hectare piece of land which included consent for the buyer to extract 40 billion litres of water from a local aquifer over 30 years.

Buyers Chinese-controlled NZ Pure Blue were interested in a setting up a water-bottling plant on the site.

There had been strong opposition to the deal with 40,000 people signing a petition against it.

Ashburton District Council Mayor Angus McKay said the decision to cancel the sale was made after NZ Pure Blue failed to a meet a deadline to provide details about how they intended to run the bottling plant from the site.

Jennifer Branje, spokeswoman for Bung the Bore which has organised several protests, told NZ Newswire the group was ecstatic the deal was off the table.

"We are just rapt," she said.

"There are so many Kiwis who sit on their hands and go: 'Oh no, look what they're doing - we can't stop it'. Well things can be stopped and things can be changed and people are the change - we need to stand up."

However, she said the group would continue to put pressure on the council until they agreed to remove the water consent aspect of any future sale of the land.

The group plans to continue with legal action if it isn't abandoned by the end of the month.

Mr McKay told Radio NZ on Tuesday the land was no longer for sale which meant the water extraction consent was off the table.

The council felt it wasn't a good idea to make significant changes so close to a local election, he said.

Opponents have 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 was a small fraction of the total used across the country.

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