No, their water has not been cut off, but the slow flow raises questions about who owns it

The question of who owns water has been raised by some fascinating goings-on in the Manawatu-Tararua region.

Local Maori elders haven’t yet popped up to complain they haven’t been consulted. Or to claim that it’s their water.

But a betting bloke would put money on them doing at least one of those two things some time soon.

The goings-on that are the subject of this post are reported here.

Alf has a strong interest in the matter because the good people of Eketahuna are among the customers of the company involved.

The nub of it is this…

A Palmerston North water carrier company is furious the city council has choked access at the city’s only filling station without any notice, but the council says water carriers distributing outside the council’s boundary is part of the problem.

We may suppose this company is not Maori-owned.

Otherwise the tribe would be kicking up a fuss and angrily declaring their intention to go to the Waitangi Tribunal.

The water-carrying company is Andrew’s Haulage and its owner-operators are Vicki and Andrew Matheson.

They say they went to fill their truck on Thursday to deliver drinking water to their customers, who are mainly rural households and lifestyle block owners.

Alas, they found the Palmerston North City Council had installed a restrictor to reduce the rate at which water is released.

The Kairanga couple, who have been in the business eight years, said they could still obtain water but it took twice as long to fill their 11,000-litre tank, meaning they were unable to get to all their customers.

The couple deliver water every day to locations including Apiti, Dannevirke, Foxton and Eketahuna.

Carriers can draw from only one designated city council filling station.

Andrew’s Haulage is registered with the city council’s bulk water filling facility in Francis Way. When Mrs Matheson called the council she was told to obtain water from Manawatu District Council’s filling station on Turners Rd in Feilding.

She said it was “unethical and financially difficult” for her business to do so because it was “double the price per cubic metre and double the travel time”.

The ethical problem is hard to discern.

But the financial aspect of the issue is obvious.

“This is going to become a bidding war, because if we can only do half the amount we’d normally do a day, then people are going to put their prices up.

“I’ve got a lot of upset and angry people on the other end of the phone and it’s really sad when we have beneficiaries ringing . . . who are not going to be able to pay but they’re desperate for water. It makes me so wild.”

The council had not informed water carriers of the change, apparently.

The city council water assets engineer is one Dora Luo, and she said the restriction on the water flow was an emergency response to the city’s water crisis.

“We realised that with water shortages . . . we need to restrict the flow.

“With the bigger tankers we’re hoping that facility will drive them away and in the meantime we’re gathering a list of other available filling points outside the city.”

Ms Luo acknowledged there could have been more communication but said delivering water outside the city was part of the problem.

Mr Matheson said the situation should have been dealt with earlier.

“I know what they’re trying to do and I can’t be p….d off with them about that because there’s a whole city for them to look after too, but I feel like I’m letting people down because of it and that’s disappointing.”

One thing is not clear from this report.

How much do the water carriers have to pay the city council to fill a tanker?

How much would they have to pay to fill the tanker if they went to Fielding?

How much do Alf’s constituents have to pay, when the water is delivered to them?

And if Maori owned the water – how much would they be charging?

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