Ownership of Water in New Zealand



Written by Rex Warwood



There is a well circulated expression of opinions including demands, rejections and mostly avoidance from the political parties who are inclined to view this subject as related to votes and this appears to nullify their ability to provide sound and meaningful policy and meaningful policy with hesitancy of involvement.

The New Zealand population have been active in the last decade of claiming their rights to hereditary considerations, but there is little confirmation of their claims being consolidated in to binding law.

All of the active parties have been unable to reach consensus and consequently there is no understanding of who owns the water? How allocation will be managed? Who will be the administration body for governance? Where will local body councils be involved? What shall we do with the 98% of surplus rainfall? How do we manage floods, droughts and run off? Do we have the ability to export our surplus water? How many countries are running out of water worldwide? Do we have adequate facilities to measure the quality of our water? Do we need to step up our academic opportunities to advance Hydrology? How important is the economy of NZ from water? What workforce would be required to manage and control an industry reliant on water? Do the urban and rural sector need to work together and share the responsibility for managing water? What further industries may be established if a reliable source of water was available? Do we have enough Aquifers to sustain our farming and horticultural industries under all conditions and the prospect of climate change?

If we were to concentrate on solutions and proposed positive action, we may progress such at a very basic level.

Firstly, the much-dreaded word of ‘ownership’ relating to fresh water. To own anything, you must either create by manufacture, in a variety of forms or be gifted an object from another person by monetary gain or as an act of goodwill.

Rain water falling form the sky without human intervention is beyond ‘ownership’ as it has not been created or gifted by human beings. So, it becomes an undeniable statement that no one owns the water.

Entitlement means that the current downpour of fresh water that falls from the sky and deposits onto your land, lakes, waterways or buildings is yours to utilise. If you should choose to add facilities such as dams, above ground tanks, underground tanks then existing and adjacent falls of rain that fall into these storage mechanisms are also yours to use.

When your land absorption of this fresh water falling from the sky is no longer containable either by absorption or storage and runs off to a neighbouring property, or onto an adjoining stream or river etc then you shall have lost the rights to that water that initially landed on your property.

In the even that the surplus run off is channelled through several properties then the rights of that water can be jointly contained by storage and utilised by the joint property owners.

Reiterating that if the surplus water is directed to a common creek, stream, river, lake or aquifer then the rights to that water are negated but may well fall into the category and allocation by the governing party.

The other aspect of water ownership is that if you have an accumulated surplus of water in a non-contained situation such a creek or river that the water is deemed as flowing water and will continue to flow until it reaches its end destination and therefore can not be classified as water under ownership, but again it falls into the category of allocation.

All this water that has not been contained by land or on property and that flows in creeks, streams or ringers to this sea is not owned by any party but becomes the sold responsibility of the crown to allocate and utilise the water in the best interests of all NZ citizens.

This very basic outline of the ownership of water doesn’t address any of the complex issues relating to water quality, lack and excess of water, water use, but we need to start somewhere and talking about it is a good start.


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