In 1985 the Bowaters purchased a dairy farm, where previous owners had discharged untreated dairy water waste into a tributary of the Kopuera Stream, which flows into the Waikato River. Shortly after the purchase, the Waikato Valley Authority agreed to the Bowaters’ proposal to construct a pond to treat the water, as per standards set by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The subsequent application to the Waikato Valley Authority for a water right to proceed with the treatment pond was opposed only by the Huakina Development Trust (“The Trust”). They opposed the treatment conditions, quantity of allowable discharge and the designated duration of the grant. The Trust appealed to the Planning Tribunal, arguing that the Authority had not adequately considered the extent of the pollution, both to the physical and spiritual sustenance of the valuable tribal resource.
The appeal to the Planning Tribunal was unsuccessful and a 10 year water right was granted, with the right to discharge up to 7.5 cubic metres of treated dairy shed water and waste per day to an unnamed tributary of the Kopuera Stream subject to conditions.
The Trust’s appeal to the High court was partially allowed and the matter was returned to the Planning Tribunal for further consideration.
The court found that the Planning Tribunal had failed to apply the several policies from ** Act correctly. Firstly the spiritual values and cultural relationship of Maori people to the waters of the region, including the waters of the Waikato River and its tributaries, should have been proper matters to be considered on an application pursuant to s 21. Secondly, despite the appellant not adducing evidence alleging detrimental effects to water quality, arising from the proposed discharge, the Tribunal was still able to adjudicate on the detrimental effects. Finally, the concerns pursued by the Trust were in fact legitimate legal concerns, which did have basis under the act.
** (Summary provided by Chloe Foyster from the Queensland University of Technology)