Labour has announced its water policy. It can be accused of being aspirational, as if that is a bad thing, but they are goals which most people would support. The headlines are that a Labour Government will:
The details are set out in the discussion document. Freshwater is correctly described as a common good and a precious and finite public resource. Clean fresh water is said to underpin much of our economic activity, and is a critical part of the clean, green brand that distinguishes us in our international markets.
The current situation is criticised.
Current systems of water allocation and management often do not encourage its best use. Labour’s will be informed by the three reports of the widely-representative Land and Water Forum from 2010 to 2012. The Forum suggested the water resource should be quantified, and the flows needed for ecological, environmental and recreational purposes determined and secured. The Forum acknowledged that iwi have rights and interests in freshwater, the nature of which need to be resolved with the Crown.
The allocation and management of our freshwater must be overseen by publicly-elected, accountable representatives. Labour will retain decision-making at local government level with central government playing a leadership role. Iwi and hapu, the public and water users must be involved in these processes.
A fair price, in the form of a resource rental, should be applied to large takes for irrigation, which comprises the largest allocated consumptive use of freshwater. This would encourage best use of water. Revenue from the resource rental would fund the likes of water management, safe rural drinking water supplies, the restoration of degraded waterways and wetlands, and new storage and irrigation schemes that are environmentally and economically sustainable.
This statement is not radical. Quantifying and determining necessary flows and respecting iwi interests in freshwater is mainstream thinking. And using market forces to determine a fair price for freshwater irrigation so that degraded waterways and wetlands can be improved and the safety of rural drinking water can be maintained are hardly revolutionary.
But Amy Adams thinks that it is a thinly veiled attack by Labour on rural New Zealand and the values they hold dear. She thinks that the policy is not fair and Labour is trying to make rural New Zealand pay taxes that no other New Zealanders will have to pay. As said by James Macbeth Dann it would be strange if toxic water was a value that Rural New Zealand holds clear.
Labour proposes that dirty rivers should be cleaned up over a generation. This is obviously aspirational but the sort of aspiration it is hard to be grumpy about. But Ian McKenzie from Federated Farmers managed to do this. He is quoted as saying:
Their view of what is fair and affordable, and our view, is highly likely to be different.
“The concept that in fact we’re an untapped resource of tax is extraordinary, I don’t think anybody within the Labour caucus probably understands what they’re doing.”
Mr Mackenzie said it is simply impossible to have all freshwater at a safe, swimmable level within a generation.
It is funny how a Government who thinks that pure market forces should apply to workers should not apply to farmers. And why attempting to clean up our waterways should be regarded as an attack on farmers and something that is unfair.
Updated: a very cleverly digitally altered image by Chris Reid inserted. No billboard was harmed in the making of this image …