Protection order for Te Waikoropupū Springs comes into effect

19 Oct 23

Article published on the Stuff website on 19 October 2023

The highest level of protection for a waterway in Aotearoa will come into effect on Thursday for one of the largest freshwater springs in the southern hemisphere.

The long battle that has been waged to protect Te Waikoropupū Springs near Tākaka by local iwi and advocates appears to have been successful, which has some of the clearest water in the world and is home to indigenous biodiversity.

The water conservation order for the Springs, that was gazetted on September 21, 2023, is one of 16 waterways that are protected under this order across the motu, which sets rules that councils must abide by when considering resource consents.

These include the preservation of the water body’s natural state and characteristics that it has or contributes to, as well as water bodies that are of “outstanding significance” in line with tikanga Māori, according to the Ministry for the Environment.

However, this is the first water protection order that requires improvement from the status quo, co-applicants Ngāti Tama and Andrew Yuill’s lawyer Maree Baker-Galloway said.

Te Waikoropupū Springs are located near Tākaka at the top of the South Island.

It was a precedent-setting achievement not only for waterway protection, but for grassroots locals fighting for their environment, Baker-Galloway said.

“I have never seen so many laypeople present really carefully thought out, comprehensive evidence that helps a decision maker.

“It really was a case of the little person – well not that Tasman District Council is Goliath – but a much better resourced [group], [and] much better to be able to access expert witnesses, so our case was run off a lot of generosity from expert witnesses.”

Andrew Yuill, a co-claimant for the order with Ngāti Tama ki Te Waipounamu Trust, member of the Friends of Golden Bay, and co-collector of samples tested for nitrate in the springs and surrounding waterways, said he was confident the order would set a new way of life for the springs’ health.

“It’s been a long, long time and we have had to fight all the way up from the bottom of credibility, as in a bunch of amateurs,” Yuill said.

Lawyer Maree Baker-Galloway says Te Waikoropupū Spring’s water conservation order is unique.

“It’s a great relief not to have to be arguing whether the springs and its aquifer are outstanding or not.

“At the beginning TDC said the aquifer was not outstanding, it merely contributed to the outstanding qualities of the springs, and so it didn’t deserve protection as an outstanding water body – well they lost that.”

Yuill said under the water conservation order, mana whenua will perform cultural health monitoring of the springs and the aquifer, and Friends of Golden Bay have proposed to be the service which tests the water for nitrates.

While that application hasn’t yet been accepted by the Council, Yuill said it was likely that he and his fellow sample collector would continue to monitor the nitrates in the waterways with or without the go ahead.

Save Our Springs co-ordinator Kevin Moran, who has been in the trenches of the battle for the protection of Te Waikoropupū Springs, was full of glee at mention of the water conservation order.

Save Our Springs campaign co-ordinator Kevin Moran pictured at the Te Waikoropupū Springs is excited for the future of the springs’ health.

“I’ve been pretty exhilarated with getting the water conservation order through,” Moran said.

“It’s just good news for water protectors and Māori who are water protectors innately.

“It was fantastic, it’s a one up for the environment. It’s been so hard, and it’s setting precedent all across the country in terms of nitrate protection.”

A spokesperson for the Tasman District Council said it was focused on implementing the order in a “practical way” for the best outcome for the Springs, the Tākaka catchments iwi and the community.

”We are committed to an independent review of the current monitoring programme in the Tākaka catchments to identify whether it continues to be fit for purpose and identify any gaps that need to be addressed under the [Water Conservation Order] requirements.”

This review will also identify all costs to implement the order and how this should be funded, through Central Government or from ratepayers.

Ngāti Tama ki Te Waipounamu Trust was approached for comment.

Link to Stuff article here.

For more information contact:

Maree Baker-Galloway