Chinese officials have rejected a large consignment of mineral water from New Zealand after it failed nitrite tests, with obvious implications for New Zealand’s global brand
However, rather than fix the probable root cause of the problem (.i.e. overuse of fertilisers) the solution suggested to the NZ bottled water industry is to
“go on a PR offensive“
rather like what happened last year when the NZ dairy industry countered the ‘Contaminated with Cruelty‘ expose.
But is burying another problem with propaganda really going to solve it, or does it further expose New Zealand’s 100% pure myth for the scam that it is?
New Zealand’s bottled water industry may need to go on a PR offensive to avoid New Zealand’s “clean, green” image being tainted by a shipment of bottled water being rejected by China.
New water bottling company Miracle Water, near Hastings, sent its first shipment of drinking water to China late last year.
Company spokeswoman Louise Harvey said on arrival in China the water, which is drawn from the Heretaunga Plains, was found to contain nitrite levels too high for the local market.
“To class water as ‘spring or artesian’ for the New Zealand market the maximum level of the naturally occurring nitrite is 0.2mg/L while the Chinese maximum level is 0.005mg/L. Unfortunately the levels of nitrite were higher than the Chinese standard hence the product was returned,” she said…source
Interestingly, Turkey is able to achieve nitrite levels of 0.045 mg/L in its spring water, far lower than that drawn from the Heretaunga Plains, unfortunately that’s still higher than the Chinese standard. But then, Turkey isn’t marketing itself as 100% Pure.
Designed to “exceed world wide standards“
‘Miracle Water’ says on its web site
New Zealand Miracle Water Limited is listed at the NZ Companies Office as having one Director, Xinghong JU, appointed 09 June 2015 of Campbells Bay, Auckland. According to Hawke’s Bay Today Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule hosted Mr Ju at the company’s official opening where “Mr Yule showed pictures of his visit to the mayor of their city, Qindao”
Qindao is in the province of Shandong, the home of the owners of Paritua Vineyard and Winery, and Hastings is about to formalise a sister-city relationship with Dezhou, which is also in Shandong.
“They were here six weeks ago and we will conclude that in March,” Mr Yule said.
“There is a big connection starting to develop between us and the Shandong province…He said he was impressed at how quick the Miracle Water plant became operational. The concept was discussed with him 14 months ago and the first sod turned 12 months ago… source
New Zealand Miracle Water states on its web site
New Zealand Miracle Water have built a state of the art automated aseptic filling plant that offers turnkey operations to its distributors and customers. The plant includes advanced ‘clean room’ filling operations and has the capacity to produce/ package as per customer requirements. The high volume low margin model in operation at this plant redefines distribution in this NZ market sector and enables gains in efficiencies that were previously unobtainable. The site was custom designed to exceed worldwide standards and offers customised solutions that are tailored to meet with the demands of the end market.
The Heretuanga Plains, and all aboard the bottled water train
Last year consents were granted for water extraction and export from the Heretaunga aquifer to the lucrative overseas market. So far seven consents permit around 3 million cubic metres of year to be extracted annually – and that’s only about 2% of the current allocated volume. However, before other extractors jump on the bottled water train they should know that there’s trouble ahead…
Heretaunga and Ruataniwha aquifers have increasing nitrate concentrations (and more sites show significant levels of manganese and iron). HB bottlers might need to sell their ‘pure’ water as ‘mineral-enriched’. source
“…it is a function of every regional council to control the use of land to maintain and enhance the quality of water in water bodies – ie including water in aquifers, and to control the discharges of contaminants into water (again, including water in aquifers). This function is not an option – it is something a regional council is required to do, whether it be difficult or easy.”
And regarding the ‘overs and unders’ approach:
“We conclude that [the Council’s] approach to the interpretation of overall quality is fundamentally flawed, and that drafting and/or interpreting the Change 5 objectives in that way could result in a more degraded and unacceptable water outcome.”
The Environment Court went on to chide the HBRC for being the only regional council in NZ to espouse the it’s “too hard” approach. And noted: “…even if what has been done is the past is irreversible, it would be irresponsible to use that as an excuse not to try to apply better standards from this point on.” Finishing with: “To not aspire to and attempt to at least maintain the quality of water abdicates the functions of a regional council …”
consents for water bottling have not been publicly notified. And thus no ‘official’ opportunity has been presented for the public to become informed and debate the matter.
When some water users (such as growers on the Heretaunga Plains) are seen to be facing irrigation bans because their water use is deemed to be environmentally damaging (eg, because of lowering surface water flows), it’s rather difficult for Joe Blogg to reconcile that with unrestricted water bottling for China. [And then there’s the environmental impact of all those plastic bottles; but that’s China’s problem.]
So it is not surprising that heaps of people are upset about the water bottling issue. Ngāti Kahungunu has called for a moratorium on water bottling consents.
At the very least, the Regional Council is mucking up the public relations management of this matter. And arguably there’s a case for a much more precautionary approach to such consents … otherwise why go to the expense and trouble of massive hydrological studies of the Heretaunga water system?
But most importantly, the public wants to know: Even if the aquifer extracts prove sustainable, should there be a hierarchy of preferred use, and are we giving away a precious asset without getting commensurate value to the region – a public good – in return?
BayBuzz.co.nz 29 May 2015
The stringent quality standards for bottled water in China are well known about. Why was the Heretaunga water abstracted when there were already questions about its suitability? Did no-one look up the Chinese import standards, or does New Zealand not possess the equipment to test for them?
Even the big players have fallen foul of China’s requirements. Evian (A Danone mineral water brand) and Volvic have also failed numerous Chinese import inspections. Neither of those companies market themselves as 100% pure but they still command a premium in China for a high-end product. No doubt 100% pure branding attracts an even higher premium?
Evian bottled water is marketed as a high-end product in China, and costs much more than the domestic brands. One 500ml Evian bottled water, costing no more than 0.5 euros ($0.65) in France, is sold in Chinese stores at around 10 yuan ($1.57), up to 6 times higher than the price of local brands.
How typical is it then, for a PR campaign to be used to protect New Zealand’s 100% pure image overseas?
Meanwhile, back at home a lack of regulatory vigor and a ‘too hard approach’ are symptoms of a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude to environmental and safety standards whenever there’s a rush to cash-in on big money (something we’ve seen in the adventure tourism industry with catastrophic consequences).
That may fly a kite in New Zealand, but it’s going to get shot down abroad, bringing the 100% pure brand into further, well deserved, disrepute.
Nitrite is formed by the reduction of nitrates by bacteria. Nitrates are the most common groundwater contaminants in rural areas. They originate mostly from fertilisers, septic systems, manure storage or spreading operations. When nitrites combine with amines in the body they form nitrosamines – known carcinogens.
You may also be interested in
For a country that markets itself to the world with the slogan ‘100% Pure’, New Zealand’s environmental credentials are not as impeccable as many would think.
The majority of its rivers are too polluted to swim in. Its record on preservation of natural environments is among the worst in the world on a per capita basis.
And it is the only OECD country that does not produce a regular national report on its environment…
Agricultural exports, including dairy, meat, fruit and wine, command high premiums internationally thanks to New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of safe, natural and high-quality food.
‘It was only a matter of time before our dirty little secret came out,’ said Jill Brinsdon, brand strategist at Radiation, a brand agency in Auckland…read on