Labour to impose royalties on all commercial water use, but says rates won't be set until after 'first 100 days' meeting with affected parties after election

By Alex Tarrant

A Labour-led government will impose royalty payments for all commercial use of water, the party's new leader Jacinda Ardern announced Wednesday.

Announcing a policy titled 'Clean rivers for future generations', Ardern said revenue raised would largely be given to regional councils to use as they see fit for schemes to improve fresh water quality.

Read political and industry reaction to the announcement below.

Details for how the royalties would be set will remain thin on the ground until after a roundtable held with affected stakeholders within Labour's first 100 days in government. From reading the policy document it looks like a different rate is expected to be set for 'bottled water' compared to other commercial uses like for farming.

"The royalty will be flexible to reflect the scarcity or abundance of water in different regions, the different quality of water, and its use," Labour says in a policy document accompanying the announcement. "The royalty for bottled water will be based on per litre and the royalty for irrigation water will be based on per 1000 litres. It will be proportionate and fair."

A first read of the policy - PDF iconClean rivers for future generations.pdf - indicates some key questions still need to be answered on how Labour would stop commercial users from skirting around rules. "Households and councils will not pay any water royalty," the document says - it will be interesting to hear whether a farmer's "household bore" could gift water to their family's farm.

New Zealand currently operates what is effectively a 'first-come-first-served' basis for water extraction consents for commercial users from bodies like springs, lakes and rivers. These are often granted for long terms like 35 years, with near-automatic renewal rights. The system has been criticised as not placing an appropriate price on water use - discussion also invariably descends into whether a price can be placed on water if the ownership question is up for debate.

Prime Minister Bill English has said a water pricing debate would first require the isuse of ownership to be clarified. However, the government has asked its water allocation advisory group to investigate whether royalties could be imposed on water extractors who then export the resource to be bottled and sold overseas. See Alex Tarrant's column from March on how the water pricing debate misses the mark if it only focusses on bottled exports.

Labour said it would work with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims. The party maintained, though, that "everyone owns our water." However, "some have interests in it that others don’t. Large commercial users who profit from our water should pay a fair and affordable royalty – for example, water bottling companies."

Meanwhile, Ardern said Labour would set strong nationwide freshwater quality standards, including for pathogens, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, periphyton a.k.a. slime, and macroinvertebrate health. A National Policy Statement would stop water quality getting worse straight away, with quality expected to begin improving within five years.

"Within a generation, we will reverse the damage that has been done to our fresh water, and make our rivers and lakes swimmable," it says in the policy document.

"This will require more sophisticated farming methods that rely less on ever higher stocking levels and are more focused on value-add. Within five years, all intensively stocked land near waterways will need to be fenced with setbacks for riparian planting to filter and absorb silt and nutrients before they can flow into the water.

"Labour will help with the workforce for this task through the Ready for Work policy. This programme will employ young people off the dole, and give the opportunity to gain work experience and income while helping to improve the environment. The young people employed through Ready for Work will be able to work on fencing waterways, riparian planting, and other work to improve water quality. Riparian planting will qualify for carbon credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme."

Generational change

In a speech in Auckland on Wednesday, Ardern said she was committed to bringing generational change to how water allocation and pricing was addressed. "The pathway lies not in blame, but in a collective committment to do things differently," she told the Environmental Defence Society.

She also said that Labour would cancel the government's Irrigation Accelleration Fund, while meeting current committments. 

See Ardern's press release below:

Labour will lead a nationwide effort to restore our rivers and lakes to a clean, swimmable state, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.

“Clean water is the birth-right of all of us. I want future generations to be able to swim in the local river, just like I did. All our children deserve to inherit swimmable lakes and rivers – and they can, if we commit ourselves as a country to cleaning up our water.

“We can do this. We can restore our rivers and lakes to a truly swimmable standard. If we choose it, and if we all work together. It will mean using our water more carefully, and being smarter about how we manage our pollution.

“Labour will help with the task of protecting our waterways from agricultural pollution. Our Ready for Work programme will employ young people off the dole and give them work improving the environment – including fencing waterways, riparian planting, and other work to improve water quality.

“A royalty on the commercial consumption of water will assist with the cost of keeping our water clean. The royalty will be flexible to reflect the scarcity or abundance of water in different regions, the different quality of water, and its use. Royalty levels will be set following consultation and the revenue will largely be returned to regional councils.

“To help set the royalty, in my first hundred days, I’ll host a roundtable on water at Parliament, with all affected sectors. I will not set a rate until I have met with those who will be affected; this is an issue that we must tackle together.

“Labour believes when water is exported for profit, private companies should also pay a royalty.

“Labour will work with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims in a manner that respects iwi’s mana, and restores the mauri of our rivers and lakes.

“Our river and lakes are a taonga of huge significance to Māori, a favourite place of recreation for New Zealanders. It’s time to restore them for future generations. Let’s do this,” says Jacinda Ardern.

Reaction:

Federated Farmers:

Pledges from Labour to consult on a "proportionate and fair" royalty for irrigation water have eased the concerns of farmers - but only by a tiny margin.

They remain terrified by the potential impacts on farming families, rural communities and the entire economy.

Federated Farmers water spokesperson Chris Allen said consultation is welcome "but talking won’t allay the fears of farmers of where this could go".

The Federation remained opposed to any royalty on irrigation water, especially when it remains unclear what purpose it would serve, other than adding another tax.

"At least Labour appears now to be proceeding with caution, recognising the considerable risks. They’ve promised that if they are part of a new government, deciding the levels of any royalty on commercial use of water will be preceded by consultation."

Mr Allen said the 10 cents a litre figure some had bandied around would bankrupt farmers and cripple our export competitiveness and regional economies.  Even one thousandth of that figure, if that's a level Labour has in mind, would be "eye-watering" given the volume of consumptive water use.

"With any royalty, farmers and growers would have little choice but to pass on the extra cost, if they could, meaning New Zealand consumers would pay more for food, and our products would be at a disadvantage against imports."

Farmers recognised some positives in the Labour policy announcements. They would applaud that riparian planting would qualify for carbon credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme, "but we hope this is not a hint of a policy announcement to come on including animal emissions in the ETS".

And the idea of activating young people who are out of work to join water quality improvement projects is worthwhile.

"That will get young people out on the land and more familiar with the farming sector, and they’ll get to experience - and help with - the large amount of environmental enhancement work farmers are already doing."

But the whole exercise of adding a new tax on water, even if the revenue is shared with regional councils for water quality work, "is counter-productive, and a money-go-round with administration costs added in.

"Farmers are working hard to live within the limits imposed by environmental standards and the desire by all New Zealanders - farmers included - to clean-up water quality hot-spots.

"Adding an extra cost in the form of a water tax drives a perverse incentive for farmers to intensify their activity, and deprives them of income that at worst puts them out of business and at best leaves them with less money to spend on environmental protection work."

Labour has pledged to consult, and Federated Farmers would take that opportunity, Mr Allen said.

"If we can get round a table with them, we’ll be able to talk them through all the downsides of what they’re proposing in a rational way. This needs to be done without the distraction of a general election."

Federated Farmers believes an important principle is that if there’s to be a charge for commercial use of water, it should be paid by all, with no room of discrimination.

"If you’re going to be stupid enough to bring this in, it’s got to be fair."

Export NZ:

Exporters need an enduring, cross-party agreement on water policy so they have the confidence to continue to invest in their businesses into the future, says ExportNZ.

ExportNZ Executive Director Catherine Beard said if a price is to be put on water it should be consistent across all water users and should be tradeable so that water can be allocated to the most efficient use at the most competitive price.

"Historical investment by businesses that use water should not be undermined, and any tradable rights should relate to future use, to allow an affordable transition and not make current business models unviable," Catherine Beard said.

"A royalty or tax on water would politicise the allocation of water, whereas tradeable water rights take the politics out of it and give greater certainty for investment.

"Allocation, management and any constraints on water need to be clear and predictable. There are billions of dollars of exports that embody water and how this is handled is hugely important to the economy and to jobs."

The Green Party:

The Green Party welcomes the Labour Party’s commitment today to take action for clean water.

Labour today said it will set strong standards for freshwater quality, help farmers to protect waterways and charge a royalty on water. The Green Party is strongly committed to protecting drinking water, cleaning up our rivers and making sure that water bottling companies pay their fair share.

“The choice is clear: we need to change the Government if we want to ensure rivers we can swim in and water we can drink for future generations,” said Green Party water spokesperson Catherine Delahunty.

“Our parties share a great deal of common ground on cleaning up our rivers and ensuring clean drinking water for all New Zealanders, and we’re excited to work on these issues together in Government.

“Labour’s announcement supports the decades long efforts by the Green Party to force real action on the pollution of our waterways and drinking water that is making us sick.

“The Greens are the only party in Parliament who will lead on the development new farming models which will really help to protect our environment, alongside a new generation of farmers and farmers groups who are more than willing to take up that challenge.

“Thousands of New Zealanders support a charge on the commercial use of water, and the Green Party policy will honour the Treaty of Waitangi and ensure that iwi receive the fair share of any revenue from water bottling,” said Ms Delahunty.

National Party:

The Labour Party’s proposed water tax would hit regional economies hard by picking on farmers, horticulturalists and wine growers, National Party Campaign Chair Steven Joyce says.

“Regions like Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago would be big losers from a policy that taxes water used by food producers that create a lot of the jobs in those regions”, Mr Joyce says.

“On top of that there is no detail in the policy. Labour needs to explain to New Zealanders clearly who would get to charge, how much would they charge, and who gets all the money,” Mr Joyce says. “They are asking for a blank cheque from farmers.

“Given this proposal is another re-heat of one put up three years ago, you’d think they would have had time to work out some of the details by now.

“Or are they just too scared to tell regional New Zealand what it would actually mean.

“The true cost of this tax would be borne by hard-working New Zealand families who would pay more for their weekly shop including things like milk, fruit and veges.”

Mr Joyce says that today’s announcement proves once again why Labour have dropped their “fresh approach” slogan.

“This comes hard on the heels of Labour confirming it would impose a regional fuel tax in Auckland. Two extra taxes in one week shows there is nothing new about this Labour Party. More taxes will increase living costs, slow down the economy and stop job growth,” Mr Joyce says.

“New leader but the same old Labour Party.”

The Taxpayers' Union:

“Picking and choosing who pays what ‘water tax’ and changing the tax rate based on its use, is economic silliness,” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.

“In principle, a case can be mounted for charging users of water.  However, Labour’s proposal seems more focused at the users, than the actual use.”

“If Labour is genuine in charging a ‘fair’ amount for water, why hasn’t it backed tradable permits for water?  That’s a far more efficient, fair, and environmentally beneficial system than royalties payable by some users.”

“Jacinda Ardern comparison to royalties on oil and gas is a bit silly.  Labour’s water royalty policy is akin to saying, they’ll charge oil drillers if the oil is used to make asphalt, but not if it’s used for plastics.  Our point is that a water royalty should treat industries the same – rather than pick and choose.”

“The most disappointing thing about today’s announcement is that it’s really just another tax on business and entrepreneurship.  With the Treasury swimming in money, Labour should be explaining how it will lower the tax burden to get Kiwi businesses ahead – not saddling  industry with even higher tax bills.”

Irrigation NZ:

Reacting to today’s announcement of Labour’s freshwater policy, Irrigation New Zealand CEO Andrew Curtis said: 'Labour's water tax would affect every New Zealander.

'Extra costs from a water tax will inevitably be passed on to consumers, meaning higher prices for food, wine, beer, housing and in many other industries. 

‘How could a water tax be implemented in practice given the differences in weather and water use across the country. It would be a hugely complex administrative nightmare.

'The majority of irrigation is in the east coast areas - are these communities  to be penalised because they live in an area with a drier climate that needs more irrigation?'

‘It’s also interesting to see that hyrdro-electric power users are to be excluded. That’s hardly the fair and equitable approach Labour said it wanted to take. Energy companies are the largest extractors of water in New Zealand, barring others from using it, and many of the profits are  going overseas.’ 

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment or click on the "Register" link below a comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current Comment policy is here.

60 Comments

So some are more equal than others and will be even more so as/when the treaty enters stage left.. "Would 'largely'be given," man alive how open ended is that. Agree the use of water rights, to take advantage of a precious commodity that we all own, should not be open slather profiteering on the basis of just help yourself because it's free and you can put it in a 3c bottle and sell it for $2.00, but there has to be a tight regime to control and properly redirect the revenue otherwise it will just get plundered and wasted by successive governments and end up as just another tax grab. Appreciate the fine detail is not yet on the table but personally have little confidence that a Labour government, and obviously not National either, would not leave the door open to feed at the trough, just like they all have, from time to time, say for example the EQ insurance levies.

up
11

National is not proposing to charge commercial operators for taking our water so Labour wins this policy issue hands down IMO.

up
12

as long as you just squint at the issue quickly and don't actually think it through....

What counts as 'exporting' water? Bottled water? Soft drinks? Beer? Cider? Mushrooms? Fruit? Water used to produce milk that gets exported? Water used to generate electricity that Tiwai turn into Aluminium and export? Where is the line drawn? Why do business have to pay but other people don't? Why don't councils have to pay?

And who do you think pays for all of these 'royalties'? Only anyone in the country who uses water, milk or electricity. And let's not even start on opening the can of worms about who owns the water.

Typical Labour policy. Light on detail, poorly thought through and will cause more harm than good.

A generational TAX ..lol, very original indeed!!

Good questions mathclub, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that exporting water is when water is exported for profit, much like they've said in the release - pretty sure water is a term everyone can understand, it's dihydrogen oxide - the stuff we drink, currently what happens is that our clean, 100% pure mineral water is bottled for next to nothing and then on-sold for obscene profits.

The commercial use that they're outlining I would imagine covers the other areas that you're talking about - fruit etc..

@Solidname trying keeping things in perspective, the bottled water export thing is a proverbial drop in the bucket so let's not get carried away. The wider matters about commercial uses of water are worth debate but its a complex matter to put a framework around let alone administer. And of course the matter of ownership really does need to be bottomed out.
To my mind this is not an issue that will be resolved ahead of the election and Labour raising it is just about points scoring and has no pragmatic solutions in train. Greens? Well let's just ignore them - their environmentalist credentials are in tatters and they are just a bunch of watermelons - green on the outside and red on the inside.

@Solidname trying keeping things in perspective, the bottled water export thing is a proverbial drop in the bucket so let's not get carried away. The wider matters about commercial uses of water are worth debate but its a complex matter to put a framework around let alone administer. And of course the matter of ownership really does need to be bottomed out.
To my mind this is not an issue that will be resolved ahead of the election and Labour raising it is just about points scoring and has no pragmatic solutions in train. Greens? Well let's just ignore them - their environmentalist credentials are in tatters and they are just a bunch of watermelons - green on the outside and red on the inside.

Taxpayers/government will own the water in rivers, streams, lakes and other natural waterways as a natural resource. Similarly water held in dams that are council or government owned. You want access to that water you need to pay the Government. Seems to work easy when I pay my water rates (i.e. flush toilet then pay for water, catch rainwater in bucket and put on roses no charge) so let’s roll it out nationwide.

If others (like farmers etc) have to pay more instead of just helping themselves by draining the local river then that is a good thing. User pays. If milk prices go up then the extra taxes from the farmers paying for the water they use means the rest of us can get a cut to offset.

Works in OZ (see http://www.kwm.com/en/au/knowledge/insights/water-rights-trading-austral...).

Easy.

I don't know whether you have actually read the article you link to, but that article does not make the case either that it "works" or that it is "easy". On the contrary, it shows that it is complex and raises a lot of questions and problems.

This is not a reason not to do it, but it is a reason not to charge into it with something that sounds politically appealing but which doesn't appear to have been fully worked out.

I think if we can hold up National's proposed changes to migration and their subsequent adjustments following squeals from low-wage employers as an example of proposing then honing policy, we should allow a measure of the same grace to others proposing policies.

Plenty jumping on the bandwagon supporting this policy as an opportunity to stick the boot into dairy farmers... in actual fact (outside of Canterbury) most dairy farmers don't have irrigation and it is the horticultural sector that will be most affected.

Plenty jumping on the bandwagon without actually reading Labours policy, Doris.

If the tax payer becomes the "owner" the all water and chooses to "sell" a commercial user rights to that water - who is liable when the quality of that product drops below the legal quality for drinking water?

At the moment it's just the taxpayers who are asked to accept the fact it'll be dropping in quality, down to a "wade-able" standard.

Not a fact. Nothing in the Government's approach allows for water to drop in quality.

Were you not in NZ for the whole rewriting of river water standards? Or are you narrowing down the topic of discussion specifically to exclude that?

I have been, and I've looked at the subject very carefully. So have you, evidently. Show me the provision in the National Policy Statement that allows for water quality to be degraded.

Are you saying it's not correct that New Zealanders are being asked to accept a lower standard of "swimmable" for their rivers than was previously the case?

Evidence I've reviewed suggest that under current standards 95% of monitoring data has to be below the 540 E. coli/100 ml threshold for a water to be considered swimmable, while this will be changing under the new standards. I.e. average Kiwis are being asked to accept lower quality water as "swimmable", more akin to what had been wadeable. Ergo the 'shifting the goalposts' argument.

Are these measurements incorrect?

Others have also noted that this area of water quality is precisely one where it's been left and thought and ruminated on for too long, letting things get into too bad a state, before action has been taken. You'd say that also doesn't count as having required Kiwis to accept lower quality water?

Different point.

Nothing in the NPS allows water quality to be degraded below the standard it is now. The requirement is clearly that water quality must be maintained or improved.

The issue you identify affects the level to which water quality must be improved. It's not a level to which water quality will be allowed to degrade.

Yes, it's lower than the previously suggested target. But there's no merit or virtue in setting a target which is hopelessly unrealistic.

They're not proposing to charge commercial operators at the moment, because they have recognised that this is a small aspect of a very complex issue with dangerous potential for unintended consequences; and therefore they want to make sure these have all been properly and carefully thought out before taking action.

I think the problem for National is they've set themselves up a little for that to be perceived as "nothing will be done for the next nine years, then there will be the appearance of action".

Yes, that may well be how National's approach to water management is perceived, by those who go only by media headlines and don't actually look in any depth at what is really going on.

And therein lies our problem. We claim to despise politicians for their short-termist, populist, vote-grabbing mentality - and then we vote for politicians who make short-termist, populist, vote-grabbing promises, howl down those who try to explain why it's a bit more complicated than can be snapped out in a soundbite, and punish those who prefer to take the time to think it through properly.

In actual fact, that's a fair and reasonable assessment of their last nine years' refusal to even acknowledge the housing crisis exists, after campaigning on the urgent need for action to address the housing crisis. It may be that your unswerving support for them is equally too easy on them, given their inaction on something they themselves identified as needing urgent action.

"You shouldn't be so hard on them for their paralysis by analysis" is nice enough, but surely nine years is time enough to achieve a little more. Nine whole years.

At the same time, it's not as if National doesn't engage in short-termist, populist, vote-grabbing promises.

"Labour will help with the workforce for this task through the Ready for Work policy. This programme will employ young people off the dole, and give the opportunity to gain work experience and income while helping to improve the environment. The young people employed through Ready for Work will be able to work on fencing waterways, riparian planting, and other work to improve water quality. Riparian planting will qualify for carbon credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme."

Yeah right !! ... we heard that promise before and failed miserably ---
even positivity has its limits .!!. My goodness

The biggest affected primary producers in the riparian plantings will be the non dairy sector - the Clean Streams Accord has seen 97% of Accord dairy farms riparian fenced.

David Parker, when in Invercargill, was pushed to qualify 'when' rivers had to be swimmable, his answer was 'in summer, we don't expect them to be swimmable in winter or at times when people don't swim in them'. Will be interesting to see if that is still Labour's stance.

The new word in water quality conversations is 'physiographics'. Miss Adern and party will need to bring themselves up to date before they have their discussions.
The science is now leaning towards that it is more beneficial to mitigate at critical source areas (CSAs).
Riparian planting does almost zilch to mitigate N leaching. So if N is the issue and not P or e-coli, riparian planting is a waste of resources. Riparian fencing is useful, though not so much on flood plains.

Do you get the feeling that the more science we get the more we know the only answer is a simple one: fewer animals, less fertiliser? And the biggest hurdle in that regard is private debt?

That might be an answer, but it's certainly not the only one. For a start, it will do nothing to address the problem of water quality in urban areas.

Alternative solutions that reduce nitrogen leaching (either proven or under research at the moment):
low nitrogen forages; cattle that have been selectively bred to excrete less nitrogen; nitrification inhibitors that can be sprayed on pastures; balancing the diet of the cattle when grass protein levels are high to reduce nitrogen excretion; natural or artificial wetlands that remove nitrogen before water leaving the farm enters waterways; housing cattle during the wettest times of the year.

Some being additional input costs and can producers afford it, I wonder? This was interesting:

Allen said the policy would be a disincentive to farmers to spend on infrastructure, which would have an adverse impact on communities. He himself has spent about $2 million on 6 kilometres of piping on his farm.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/95600911/labours-water-charge-n...

$2 million - what would be good to understand for me would be the anticipated return on that outlay. I suspect lots of urban dwellers like me just don't understand the business rationale associated with land conversion for intensification. If for example, we had an idea of the current tax paid by the business now (prior to intensification) vs the tax to be paid post-intensification then there would be more public buy in.

But the general impression is that much of our current agricultural land utilisation runs at losses - so although there is contribution to GDP, there is no real contribution to overall national well being/health/sustainability.

Whether people could afford it would depend on current market conditions. For instance, at the moment horticulture is producing great returns so the figures would add up. When dairy MS was $8 per kilo, it was profitable for dairy, but there would be almost no appetite for taking on that kind of risk with dairy at the moment (among NZ farmers, Chinese investors could have a different view). One thing is for sure that if Canterbury farmers had still been dryland sheep farming over the last three years of drought, many would have gone bankrupt and the region would have suffered considerably.

Are you referring only to dairy, or to sheep, beef and deer too, Kate?
Definitely not only one answer Kate. NZ is playing catchup in water/environmental solutions. It has been so busy focusing on dairy that it has taken it's eye of the ball in regards to other industries. Dairy uses 1.8-2m hectares of land, all other pastoral users use approx 10 million ha. For almost a decade dairy has been conducting environmental science research but the other sectors haven't been so proactive - some have only recently started looking in to their environmental impacts. It is going to take a catchment wide approach to improving water quality not a 'one rule fits all' and as Doris states above there are many options - most of which are unknown or not understood by those outside farming circles. I believe private debt is not the biggest hurdle for the non dairy sector - lack of gross income is. Even in dairy the majority of debt is held by the minority.

CO - I think the work is being done it is just somewhat more private rather than under an umbrella group. The real irony is that the real environmentally damaging impacts are not even recognised.

How many Councils test for heavy metals like mercury and aluminium in the water?
How many Councils test for synthetic chemical residue from the plethora of agri-chemicals being used?
The EPA seems to register any old product and shows no environmental responsibility at all. Products that are banned in other parts of the world get the green light here......

Ardern will have to bring herself up to date. She wants to spray and plant out Riparian Strips which Dairy farmers have been doing.....this activity ran alongside increased water quality testing, which has been showing increases in Nitrates and phosphates (see below) which is always attributed to dirty dairying thanks to some politicians, bureaucrats and poor MSM.......I would suggest to any farmer considering planting riparian strips to undertake some basic nitrate and phosphate testing prior to spraying in preparation for planting.

Abstract
Herbicide use is increasing worldwide both in agriculture and private gardens. However, our knowledge of potential side-effects on non-target soil organisms, even on such eminent ones as earthworms, is still very scarce. In a greenhouse experiment, we assessed the impact of the most widely used glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup on two earthworm species with different feeding strategies. We demonstrate, that the surface casting activity of vertically burrowing earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) almost ceased three weeks after herbicide application, while the activity of soil dwelling earthworms (Aporrectodea caliginosa) was not affected. Reproduction of the soil dwellers was reduced by 56% within three months after herbicide application. Herbicide application led to increased soil concentrations of nitrate by 1592% and phosphate by 127%, pointing to potential risks for nutrient leaching into streams, lakes, or groundwater aquifers. These sizeable herbicide-induced impacts on agroecosystems are particularly worrisome because these herbicides have been globally used for decades.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4542661/

Will the City Councils be considered commercial,if so will the Fire Brigade be charged for using water as so on and so on.

You realise that City councils & fire brigades are public good enterprises... so they don't have an incentive to maximise their use of water for profit

City Councils are not public good enterprises. They run many commercial entities often competing against other businesses.

Farmers (core national voters) will be scared by this. People that want to avoid swimming in cow excrement, and like white-baiting in rivers clean enough to sustain it will love this. On wonders if water meters will be wound back like Japaneses imports of old if this becomes law.

It is pleasing to see this policy as globally supplies of quality water is going to continue to be increasingly important resource.
As New Zealanders, we have previously considered water to be both abundant and of little value, so a shift to placing a charge on water is a paradigm shift which for many is going to raise many questions and debate.
Here in the Hawkes Bay we have two bottling plants now exporting water to China at no cost for the water. As the operation is highly automated, it is of little benefit to the wider community in terms of employment or contribution to regional rates. No doubt the profits will be with a China based (parent) company so there is also little tax benefit to New Zealand.
As the two companies currently only pay normal regional council rates on land value and not water used, the quantity of water taken is disproportionate to the cost associated with monitoring the aquifer.
Despite being subject to a resource consent on the quantity taken, their is real risk that there will be a resource rape mentality as has occurred with so much resource extraction in many countries. To us, water has previously been perceived much in the way tropical rainforest was perceived by so many indigenous societies.
There is also evidence that bottling companies may not be good cooperate citizens as has already been shown. The issues of trucks on Napier's iconic Marine Parade is well known. For one company it was a consent condition that they did not use the Parade. However, for the other, when the use of the Parade by trucks was raised by the local newspaper their response was along the lines "We will take the shortest, most economical route to the port, and as it is via the Parade, so be it".

Various reaction in there now.

Oh well ...most comments from the professionals are negative, slamming this policy, call it suspicious and hard to administer and unfair ....

That is why Ms Ardern was on Newstalk ZB defending it so hardly assuring it is going to be ok ...

This is yet another text book RAW Labour blunder dished out in a hurry to catch up with the train --- it is great , they are just adding nails to their coffin making sure to piss everyone off ...well done Labour - Let's Do This !!

We can charge bottled water exporters what we like - but there are literally hundreds of similar sources all around the world. They don't have to come to NZ. Tasmania is another option.

We need to consider the scenario where we have no bottled water exports and it just flows to the sea.

Is that a better outcome ?

Dont worry people, when all our food is more expensive than everyone else's, we can just import it all from China. They don't worry about clean water over there. And what's a bit of Hepatitis between friends? And all that farm land - we can build houses on it and sell it to the Chinese. Thats called #winning

Andrew Curtis is actually bluffing when he talks about the cost being passed on to the consumer......we have a free market economy based on supply and demand......sorry Andrew mate

Businesses that don't pass on their costs are called bankrupt.

I'm interested in what people think...

Should commercial users of water pay the same, more or less than what domestic consumers of water pay?

In Auckland this is (as I understand it from Watercare) $0.001444 per litre. Of course, the one argument will be that "well, you pay this because this is part of the delivery infrastructure cost", but is that the only cost we should be considering?

For example, I have friends in the agri sector in Canterbury who are gravely concerned about the treatment of aquifers in the area, some of which are being commercially utilised including for export. Even if the aquifer is being tapped directly without utilising local infrastructure, does this mean it should be free or cheaper than what domestic consumers pay?

I see some uncomfortable parallels with the lot of the locals in Louisianna, USA, who haven't seen the real benefit of the rich resources under their feet because of lax regulation, state subsidies, and high rates of revenue leakage (~35%). Yet it is they who are now suffering the burden of over-exploitation and pollution of their environment.

Personally I am against unregulated commercialisation of any commons. Although it remains to be seen if water in NZ even *is* a commons (or to what extent if it is) or is simply all owned by a small group in the community called iwi.

I am also against driving up living costs for everybody in the whole country just because twelve companies started exporting water nobody else was using for anything.

Everybody needs water.

Aquifers are being used by others, and many are in fact under pressure. It's not instant water from the sky that can be taken without impacting anyone. Maybe based on that we should be looking at taxing based on the impact on the resources shared by various parties, with the aim being to keep them from being destroyed or degraded severely?

Don't commercialise common aquifers then.

Water is not a scarce resource in NZ. As in most countries it seems to be more an issue of where the water is and getting it where is it is needed. So if other countries are keen to pay us enough for what (ultimately) falls from the skies then I suggest we take their money and say thanks.

Any water company will unavoidably pay tax on profits, wages and local sales. That doesn't preclude the possibility of applying environmental controls if required and being selective as to where water can be taken from.

Imagine if every second house in NZ had a sizeable water tank with localised filter and pump, the setup cost of which was paid for water export revenue.

We already are. [Source]

I again find myself prompted by the Louisianna example. High leakage of revenue, environmental costs absorbed by the locals, little profit to the locals.

My gut feeling looking at the issue is we may be well-advised to consider any tax in terms of it specifically being used to mitigate negative effects on others. E.g. if you collect water off your roof and bottle it, why tax that? If you draw water from aquifers and waterways where it's going to affect wider society, why not investigate the options of offsetting the cost to society?

I think it's good they're getting the debate underway.

Labour to impose royalties on all commercial water use, this would in effect be another case of double dipping. Water for commercial use already costs.
To get a water right consented through the RMA costs many thousands of dollars and the electronic monitoring equipment required to show real time compliance is also very costly.
Surely we want businesses in NZ to flourish and pass on the obvious benefits to us all, over regulation and royalties(TAXES) are killing business, if we all do as many have done and sa,I can no longer be bothered with all these unjustified time consuming and costly issues and close shop, we all loose and this is particularly relevant to small town rural nz

New thinking on water required.
How about some lateral thinking here?
In Auckland we pay $1.45 per cubM for water and about $1.95 per cubM for wastewater plus a fixed charge for wastewater which effectively makes the wastewater charge 3 times the input water as metered.

So why not charge farmers on a similar basis (assuming some useful metering or similar could be arrived at) for the waste water.

Hence animal farming would incur significant charges while horticulture and forestry would be very low or nil

Try that for size.

So if you are going to charge farmers for water supply and disposal I assume you will be providing the infrastructure to deliver it and take it away for that price? Town mains water supplies and larger sewer lines are not cheap, and hence the cost of water and waste in cities. We pay for our bore or rainwater, the tank, the pump, piping and distribution network, power, filtration, water testing, septic tank and disposal of the septic tank solids - remind me again what value the Council is adding to this?

So if you are doing everything right and produce no effluent you would be clear of charges

Mmm... Basel our 7ha orchard uses 6 times the water our 400+ cow non-irrigated dairy farm does. And we have state of the art orchard irrigation so older orchard systems would be using significantly more in comparison.

Define dairy waste water please. Other than stock water, the only water used in the farming operation is in the cowshed for meeting food safety (hygeine etc) standards. All that water,( which can be mostly captured rain water), that has been used is then directed in to our effluent pond and irrigated back on to farm. Our region has had water metering, even for non - irrigated farms, for some years now. As in our orchard operation the data from the meter is sent via a wireless connection to regional council every day. This is pretty standard practice in proactive regional councils. Installation of water meters is also a check point in Fonterra's Annual on farm Dairy shed and Environment assessment.

What you pay in Auckland isn't for water but the infrastructure in delivering it to you. Water care does not pay anyone for the actual water they simply pump it out of their storage facilities/Waikato River and operate under a consent to take water.

Great. You already expect to pay for irrigation water.
Maybe there would need to be a testing regime for farm run off to cover nitrogen leaching etc.
the suggestion here is that as testing becomes more sophisticated in the future these types of tests become available at minimal cost.

Water irrigation which we don't have on farm, and effluent irrigation which we do have, are two different things. Your previous comment referred to horticulture paying very little but horticulture is a very heavy user of water - and not all of it is used efficiently. Orchards and vineyards are also heavy users of copper - a heavy metal which can contaminate potable water supplies, which in our area Council requires us to test our potable water supplies for.

Are you referring to overland flow as farm run off? If so testing that for nitrogen is a waste of time as nitrogen moves down through the soil - not via overland flow. Our regional council tests waterways around our farm annually. But then we have a proactive regional council. ;-)
Overseer is a programme used by some regional councils to set N leach limits e.g. Otago max is 30. Every year, for our dairy farm we have to produce an Overseer report. So we know how much we are leaching according to Overseer.

You need to get over the media fixation with nitrogen. It is not an issue in every waterway. Phosphate and sediment and in some cases e-coli is an issue on a wider scale. (And Overseer reports on P too).

Catchment groups are being, or have been set up in many areas to look at what the issue is with their particular catchment waterways. These groups are the way forward to cleaning up rural waterways. Have a look at this video which explains what one group - on the Pomahaka river, is doing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttiE6UZnhzk
edit spelling correction of Pomahaka

More the question is, is NZ expecting to pay for the true cost of it's food production? As a farmer recently was heard to say - with 95% of our production exported, why do we bother to supply NZers with dairy if they aren't going to be willing to pay the true cost of it.

Just to keep things in perspective ... our entire annual water exports is the same volume of water that goes under a bridge on the Waikato river in 33 seconds.

It's a ridiculously small amount and totally irrelevant to our waterways. There's no issue here, other than a public sentiment piece.

That's not a good reason to make laws and drive costs onto industry. Plenty of real problems to address without worrying about this one.

Good luck with any rational debate on water mathclub ;-)

You could say the same thing about oil in the ground. There's plenty down there and only a small amount is being taken out at once.