Govt writes to water allocation advisory group asking for specific review on bottled-export issue after rise in public interest; Report set for November 2017

The government has written to a group set up to review water allocation in New Zealand to ask it to specifically look into the issue of water bottled for export as part of its considerations.

Prime Minister Bill English said a letter was to be sent Monday to the Water Allocation Technical Advisory Group requesting it explore the topic due to the growing level of public interest in a small part of a broader issue on water pricing in New Zealand.

The Group was set up last year to further work done by the Land and Water Forum on allocation issues. It is set to publish its final recommendations to the government in November 2017, effectively pushing the issue out until after the 23 September general election.

Speaking to media at his post-Cabinet press conference Monday, English denied that the government was merely jumping on the political bandwagon set in motion by Opposition parties in recent weeks on the topic of taxing or banning exports of bottled water.

Environment Minister Nick Smith had last week tried to brush the bottled-export debate aside. However, English indicated a change in direction over the weekend and again Monday morning, indicating a water tax debate could be held, but that the issue of ownership should be dealt with first.

He maintained this position Monday afternoon, saying he did not want to give the public the impression that there was an easy answer. Questions such as who got to charge for water and who received the revenue stream needed to be answered, he said. Maori rights and interests would also need to be incorporated, he said.

It would be a big change for New Zealand to now say a price would be placed on water, after decades of the resource being free and accessible on a first-come-first-served basis, English said. But the public interest on the bottled-export issue illustrated that consensus may have shifted, he said.

Despite the debate only recently having garnered strong media attention, English said the government had been aware of, and was looking into, water pricing and allocation issues for a number of years now. The “public should feel reassured” that the government was covering the issue, he said.

Meanwhile, English said that as the previous MP for Clutha-Southland, he had been aware of consents issued for the export of water, but that most of these hadn’t been taken up due to the financial rationale not stacking up at the time.

The industry was still small and it was not clear what interests were foreign-owned, and which were locally owned, he said. The discussion should focus on whether the practice was permissible under New Zealand law, which it was, rather than whether parties were making a profit off it, he said in response to a question on whether it was concerning money was being made sending water offshore.

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26 Comments

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another poll speaks and then the government moves from denials to looking to address the concerns of the majority.
does it mean they will take any meaningful measures NO

We can hope people let their frustration with the current government count in the September election

and vote for a different bunch of clueless....oh great.

As with other areas, the modus operandi will be to put any meaningful action off for as long as humanly possible.

Election year compulsion to refer to expert committee.

Denying and delay tactics of national government.

I quite like how the government acts based on popular sentiment. Sure - nothing brave or showing vision but nice and easy and straight down the middle

Oooooh I trembled - He was so convincing

You have got to admit , John Key would never have let himself get sucked into an emotionally charged debate like this , he was far too sharp for that .

He would have waited until after he received the report before saying too much , if anything

Maybe his sharp mind , growing up in a welfare recipient neighbourhood , and managing and dealing with all those pesky self-centred currency traders taught him some circumspection and gave him the edge to pick his battles wisely .

Bill English is not like that , he is a hard-working , honest Christian , technically competent , but a lousy tactician and politician .

Well if we believe the media;

(a) he's doing nothing if he doesn't immediately act on an OECD report (it is impossible for the OECD to ever be wrong on any issue, ever), or

(b) he's jumping on a bandwagon if he does act.

John Key would have responded: "Well, at the end of the day it is what it is and I'm pretty comfortable with it."

And the populace rejoiced and moved on to the next bread and circuses.

Sorry but this counts for nothing if the result is not delivered until after the Election. So important that voters do so tactically to ensure that we don't have coalition partners who can be bought off.

How much tax are we talking about? Say 10M litres goes as bottled water, $1/ltr is $10M. This is not workable IMHO. However 10c/ltr may work. Total tax revenue = $1,000,000. Why is this a big deal in reality? I do believe there should be a charge on volume but the income would open up a bigger can of worms. An export tax for bottled water perhaps, 10c/ltr?

Charge all users for water, the exception being councils supplying drinking water to their ratepayers. How hard might that be?

Everything is simple for he who doesn't have to do it.

And charge more for high quality aquifer sourced water. Unless it is for community use. It is a nonsense that private companies can access aquifer water for free while neighbouring communities can be placed on water restrictions. Any commercial water producer should be based on the proviso that there are no local community water restrictions and if there are -then their source is the first to be cut.

We shouldn't privatise the benefits and socialise the costs of our communal resources.

What about rain water? Who owns the clouds?

Google and Apple:).

yup, and you'll never get them to pay tax.

The suggestion of charging $1 per litre for water is simply ludicrous , that would make it almost as expensive as a litre of diesel or a litre of Milk

If there is to be a price on the commercial use of water then it should be the same across the board. There may be a lot more money to be made by exporting it in drink bottles than in producing milk.

Lets follow this thought experiment a bit further :-
The best estimates are that it takes between about 200 - 1000 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.
http://sciblogs.co.nz/waiology/2012/05/24/how-much-water-does-it-take-to...

Given that total milk solids are 8.4% of raw milk then the water required per kg of milk solids range between 2380 to 11900 litres. This means to equate to a milk price of $5.40/ kg of milk solids, we would have to charge between 0.22 and 0.045 cents per litre of bottled water. We should be able to get more than that for the bottled water.

OK lots of other considerations are required :-
- We can add more value to the milk by increased downstream processing
- On the other hand there are a lot of other extra costs in producing milk so simply putting the water in bottles may give a better return
- There are a lot of environmental costs pouring up to 1000 litres of cow urine into the environment, the costs of which are ignored at the moment.
- Scale. Could we sell this much water

Interesting when you start putting things into some sort of perspective?

Question - why are we not condensing and bottling the millions of litres of water that is evaporated out of the milk in the process of producing milk power

Imagine people paying good money for water that falls from the skies, and all you have to do is put it in a bottle.

High quality aquifer water is not the same as water coming down an irrigation race and it is certainly not the same as what comes off the farms. Why should they be priced the same?

Nick Smith might think his 'swimmable low land water' is the equivalent to pristine mountain water or filtered aquifer water -but it isn't. That is just another alternate fact coming from Nick the Muppet.

Exactly, we are giving away the clean and accessible.

Off course it generally isn't, but it is at the Pupu springs aquifer which they want to pour over farms. I suppose the charging regime would need a weighting for quality. When I think of the Canterbury rivers and aquifers I wonder if we would be better taking irrigation water from the rivers and replacing it with water from the aquifers rather than irrigating with aquifer water.

So Bill English is suddenly interested in water ownership because of this weeks media coverage and yet governments for years have ignored Maori claims to the water.

So lets decide ownership Bill and finally acknowledge that Maori are the rightful owners. I suspect they will be much better at managing this resource.

Careful what you wish for people! It could be the thin edge of the wedge..

Dairy and meat products (and anything else you care to mention) are very expensive in NZ because, don't you know, we have to pay world market prices! Wouldn't be too much of a stretch to do the same with water..